Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reentry Sequence Initiated

Starting countdown... our July 1st "End Day" approaches quickly.  But its finality has been muddied; the consequence of our melding worlds.  Our San Rafael renters requested an early end to their lease, so last weekend we returned and slept in our "old" home for the first time in nearly a year.  It was nearly empty--couldn't even find bags for garbage or recycling--but it was significant to be home again.  There is a lot to do there!

But we still have not left the yurt.  I remember frequently (and am glad) that we really won't leave at all!  We will share time in two homes.  As a clear example of this, the July calendar has become a checkerboard of existence in our two places.  To San Rafael to unpack, work on the yard, prepare for school, play ultimate.  Then to Auburn to rehearse for the girls' play, visit the goats, swim team, clean-up.  Then back again.  And forth.  We won't really settle back home until mid-August.  Even then, I'm sure we will itch to return to our yurt away from home.

In addition to the time in the old house, being back in San Rafael last weekend provided opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues.  A common question was: "How does it feel to be coming back?"  In short, it feels good.  As I have said many times, we love our home and our lives there and we are so pleased about how this year turned out.  I am very interested, in a pre-self-reflective way, how this past year will alter our perspective back in our "old" place and jobs.

The kids seem to be pretty much done with blogging.  Sorry.  I'm not sure if this will be it for me, but there won't likely be a whole lot more.  I really would like to print the whole blog out since last August and have it bound as a family memento.  But I'm not sure if there is a way to do that without going to each entry and pushing print.  Even then, there are all kinds of menu bars and random stuff all over the page I would not like to have in the book.  If anyone knows a trick, please let me know!

I thought about looking into making an actual published book, too.  Juliana rightly says no one who doesn't know us would be interested in reading our indelicate prose and seeing a bunch of kids' school work.  And, unfortunately, I don't think any of us have the energy or talent to transform what is here into a cohesive, publishable work.  It has been an interesting year though. I do think others could benefit from our experiences and thoughts.  Does anyone have an idea about if and how we could proceed with that?  Maybe we just send interested parties here to the blog and let them distill as they will!

Life goes on.  We had a wonderful backpacking trip last week to Grouse Ridge in Tahoe National Forest about an hour and a half northeast of here.  The weather was perfect, the mosquitoes few, the terrain beautiful, at an appropriate challenge level, and there were lakes everywhere.  Backpacking is gear-intensive, but it was pretty easy this time and it was such a pleasure to be all together out in the woods to walk, see, swim, read, eat, sleep.  Simple.  Basic.  Wholesome.  Good.

We sent Eli off to camp for a month earlier this week.  In regards to our year together and "away from it all", it felt final.  It was hard to see him go.  I wouldn't have let him go so long had we not just had 12 intense months together.  Though he was very excited, it was hard for him, too.  He seems so much more centered and grounded lately: more willing to smile, offer help, swallow the complaint, show interest, admit he will miss us at camp.  He really enjoyed camp last year and I think it will be good for him this summer as well.  He will have a chance to be with peers--something he has missed some this year as a homeschooler.  I hope the self-grounding he established this year will pull him through 8th grade and beyond. 

Before the back-and-forth month of July, we have a solid ten days in the Foothills.  The girls have five goats entered in the Placer County Fair.  It was sweet to see them trying to be official and lead the baby goats around today.  The goats weren't too interested, but still showed well: two first places and a "Grand Champion" for Jubilee in the dwarf goat doe class.  The mama goats get shown over the weekend and next week we bring most of the goats to new homes.  In San Rafael we will keep two (Magic and Opal), Rosie dog, all the chickens, and the two ducks on a trial basis.

Hope to see you there, too!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

She has less, but feels more prosperous.

I enjoyed having a focus this year.
Homeschooling, homesteading.
What about next year?
I feel some anxiety about feeling over-scheduled, over busy, and disconnected.

On the almost eve of our eldest leaving for a month to camp, I realize that I will miss him a lot.  And he will miss us.  He says so, and he is weepy about it a little.  This year, I feel we have reattached.  

I'm reading books I want to mention:
1.) Not Buying It--My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine.  She stops consuming things.  She makes food, checks books out from the library, crafts her gifts, repairs the rips, and finds free entertainment.  She discovers she has less, but feels more prosperous.  Like an addiction she breaks, she stops wanting things so much.  Her identity shifts.  She becomes more mindful and thoughtful.  And saves some money.  There is also an interesting discussion of what was "essential" for her.  She needed coffee.  Her husband stocked up on wine ahead of time.  What are my essentials?  What are yours?

2.)  Folks, This Ain't Normal, by Joel Salatin
He is the patriarch of Polyface Farms, in Virginia.  Featured in the movie Food, Inc.
His farming practices are considered revolutionary, but really they're just traditional.  Practices he says are being replaces (ineffectively) by factory farming.  It's pretty political, so far.  And I find myself challenged by some of his ideas.  He makes me feel a little uninformed about common sense stuff, and he has some rancor about liberal ideology.  I'm quite charmed by his parenting stories-- particularly about teenagers.  He believes they are underutilized, and not allowed to make real contribution to family and society (despite boundless energy).  They become frustrated.  Going from extracurricular to extracurricular is not real, or satisfying, he thinks.  But starting a business, cutting wood, working the soils, hunting for food, acquiring real life skills (and taking real life risks) is satisfying.
He says it better.
I also still love the idea of multigenerational family living, and he has that.
It inspires me to greater stewardship of our land here.  And I feel lucky to feel connected to place.  I have fallen in love with this place.

3.)  Milking the Moon, by Eugene Walter.
This fellow grew up in my hometown (Mobile, AL) in the 1920s.  This is the story of his life, told in his voice, through interviews.  He was an eccentric, a traveler, an imp.
Here is a snippet.  (Imagine it all spoken in an elegant Southern accent.)
"My grandfather and grandmother were passionate gourmets, being European, and coming out of small town families who spent 2.5 hours at the table for each meal, between wine, food and conversation.  If you want to be a good cook, you have to be a good gardener; it all works together.  My grandfather would pick the salad two minutes before it was going to be washed and dressed for the table.  If we were going to have corn on the cob for lunch, my grandfather would go out in the garden, and my grandmother would put the water on to boil.  When she saw bubbles forming on the bottom of the pot she would go to the window and say "Now."
I never heard "We don't have anything for supper."  There was always something, and plenty of it, because there was a garden.  And there was a pantry with bottles of preserves, and big jars of rice, and grits, and flour, and brown sugar.  And there was this sense of household."
(Joel Salatin would have liked Eugene Walter.)

I have a few concrete goals for the year, and many more unformed ones.  I'd like to be stronger.  To again complete the Marin Triathlon around Halloween.  I think I can ride many more places on my bike and drive less.  And keep sewing.  I've been inspired by Natalie Channin's Alabama Studio Design, and want to take on the challenge of sewing most of my clothes eventually.  I hope crafting will become a regular practice.  I hope we will grow more of our own food each year.  My parents will be around more this year, and I'm excited to be with them often.  Learn more about bees, and steal a little honey.  Reconnect with friends I've missed...

It's been a sweet year, and I'm looking forward to what's next.

I bit him hard

Today I bit my friend's dog.

I'm still upset about it, though neither my friend, nor his dog, nor I, were really to blame.
We were desperate to get him free of our favorite goat, Bambi.  The dog had broken through our fence.  He was determined, and had a good hold.  The girls were screaming.  The goat was screaming.  I might have been screaming too.  I could not separate his jaws, though I had upper and lower in each hand and was using all my strength.  I had no free hands to do anything else.  So I leaned in, and bit him hard on the top of the head.  And he loosened a little, with a popping noise.

The upset is something the girls and I have been feeling in our bodies-- a shaky sort of adrenaline upset that takes a while to dissipate.  Like too much caffeine.

Our goat is okay, I think.
He went into his playhouse and didn't come out again.
He has a puncture wound, only one.
A very generous local vet advised us by phone.

We shaved the area.  We flushed inside the wound with a dilute betadine solution.  We boostered for tetanus.  Gracie gave her first subcutaneous injection-- penicillin.  We applied antibiotic ointment, and bandaged, so flies can't get in.  We gave him ibuprofen for his pain and yogurt to augment his gut bacteria.  He was brave and gentle.  We felt a little better for having done what we could for him.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wrapping up

We are wrapping things up.  The kids got their report cards a few days ago.  On Tuesday, we went to their awards night for the homeschool we are associated with (and stopped by Malakof Diggins, site of the invention of hydraulic mining and now a ghost town and state park).  We had one of the families over who will be taking two of our goats and built 500' of fence for another.  I installed the new skylight for the yurt that has been sitting in my garage for over a year, haunting me!

All of this has got me thinking about the "like to do list" I posted back in October (10/4/11).  Did I do it?  I've pasted it below with checks (√) for things I was able to do, an "x" for things not done, a "-" for things done partially, and comments in CAPS.

√Be with my family
√Homeschool my kids and hug them often
√Build and repair stuff in and around the yurt and land
√Nourish old friendships
√Make new friends
√Make pumpkin bread with my kids
√Enjoy sports with my kids
√Enjoy more quality time with Juliana
√Play guitar
√Play piano
√Learn some ukulele (maybe)
√Play ultimate
√Learn some karate
√Ski a lot
√Read more
√Read a novel in Spanish (or at least part of one)-PART
√Write a blog
√Write a poem
√Write a song
√Witness a goat birth
√Make a bike trail with a bridge over our creek
xMake a cobb oven (maybe)
xMake a sweat lodge (maybe)
-Make a swimming hole at the creek (a long-shot)
√Visit another country or two
√Take some trips around California and the West
√Camp and backpack-BACKPACK TRIP NEXT WEEK
√Explore Auburn, Grass Valley and Sacramento
√Remain financially solvent
√Do nothing with some regularity

Yay!  I done did it!  It isn't all about "doing", of course, and that is much of the point.  That list was generated with the hope that I'd be doing a lot of "being".  Ok.  I beed.

Speaking of which, when we were packing up from work and home last year, I was often asked why we were doing it.  We had some pretty specific reasons.  In a nutshell they were:

• Be with each other more; affirm family.
• Get to know our new place, its surrounds, and the people here better.
• Travel.
• Homestead.

I think we lived all of those things and feel richer for it.


Friday, June 1, 2012

End of the year homeschool reflection

I think that this homeschool year was special because it gave me opportunities that I otherwise wouldn't get. We got to keep our goats, get more chickens, and have ducks. We traveled to 3 national parks, Thailand, NY, Boston, Providence, and many more places.  Grace and I have met nearly 10 friends here.   Also, our family has spent much more time together.

This year has effected my life in some very good ways. I have learned how to care for the animals in more efficient ways, how sweet ducks are, and more advanced school related things.

Some of my favorite things about homeschooling: getting hours of free time and the right to decide what I do. Some days I only sew and do crafts or read all day. And as I have stated in almost every sentence I love having the animals.

 Sophia and Grace receiving their end of the year report cards.


            This year had it's ups and downs. It was really nice being able to go on lots of trips and sometimes it was nice spending time with my family. My favorite trip was to Thailand which you heard all about. I also liked going skiing a lot and I got much better.
            There ware also definitely downsides. One I really haven't liked is having my parents on my case all the time; instead of annoying my teachers I end up annoying them and they get fed up with me. I also have had trouble being out in the middle of nowhere and far away from civilization; I used to be able to ride my bike to any thing I wanted to do but now I'm stuck here a lot of the time.  Another problem is that I didn't have any friends when I came here, but I have made some. I do miss being with kids my age 7 hours a day. I have more things to say but I'll stop complaining for now.
          This year has made me realize that even though the year has been both good and bad, it is really important to have a good attitude about what you are doing whether it is your first choice or your last choice. Another thing I have realized is that dreading something that is going to happen anyway is a waste of time and energy and it is better to just be happy with what is happening now.


[Editor's note: Eli just completed his final report on Leonardo DaVinci.  If you would like to read it, it can be accessed here:] 

End of the year reflection

This year has been great. I really liked being with the animals and having a lot of them. If we had not had this year, we would not have been able to see goats being born. Also, we wouldn't have so many animals or get to spend as much time with them. We wouldn't have the ducks or 10 goats.

Another thing I really liked was going on really cool trips. We have gone to Thailand, Southern California, Boston, New York, and more.  That was really cool. There is no way we could do that at school.

Time is also is nice. This year we had a lot of time for crafts.  I have sewn, drawn, and knitted.

This year we have made friends, too.  Some of them include Lydia, Shannon, Ruthy, Caleb, Torri, Mackenzie, and Naya.

Sometimes though, this year was sad.  Some examples of bad times were: Rosie Killing chickens and missing our friends.

Over all, this year has been great.  This has been a year of travel, animals, time, and fun.


Frog Blog, Continued

As you know, I made a "Frog Blog" at the start of the year [editor: looking for suggestions about how to complete her sewn frog]. Thanks for the suggestions.  I went with the little pillow method and I finished!  Sorry it took all year.


[Editor's note: The original "Frog Blog" remains our single most-viewed blog entry!]