Thursday, December 18, 2008

Connections Ezine now free online

Our hiatus has evolved into full-blown defunct status despite my denial. The energy involved in this project is now expended in other directions, and many of our writers have moved on.

I thank our subscribers and writers for making the existing issues possible. By way of thanks, I have opened all issues for public access in hopes that they will help many families on their unschooling journeys. There's too much wisdom, experience, and insight contained in this collection of ezine articles to simply let go.

I will use the remaining subscription money to continue to fund the website maintenance both here and at I welcome any future donations to keep Connections alive. Please continue to submit resources, and I will do my best to keep those pages up to date.

Connections: ezine of unschooling and mindful parenting

Again, my humble thanks to all who helped make this project possible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I know, I know...

It's been forever since I posted. What can I say? This is busy season on the farm, and my computer time and energy is limited. Here's a recent photo of the kids making their own pizzas one night for dinner, a common occurrence round these parts.

Em turned 11 a couple of weeks ago, came down with chicken pox yesterday, and started her first knitting project. She's quite proud of herself and has something to do while sitting in bed watching movies. You can see she has a new haircut, too.

The other kiddos are doing well, too. Jules is learning to knit as well, and is working on her own scarf. She also planted her own garden this year. Her siblings had small plots as well, but never got into it as much as she did, and she did much of the work for them as well. These sunflowers are some she painstakingly transplanted out of my market garden—volunteers for last year's crop that would have been tilled under. She also planted tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and pumpkins, though the pumpkins never materialized. She also graciously (or begrudgingly, depending on the moment) loaned me some garden space for my medicinal herbs until I get the new bed made. Here, she's dressed up as Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean III for a game they're playing, which I dragged her away from to get the photo before the sunflower came and went.

Sam's big into swimming and The Legend of Zelda these days. Oh, and Mythbusters—he absolutely loves Mythbusters. He's grown so much this past year, emotionally and physically, and he's such an amazing soul. He was so pysched to be able to climb to the top of the water truck that brought the water for our swimming pool.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Photo Friday meme: Destruction

This is from a meme challenge from last year on another blog I was keeping, but have now deleted. I wanted to save this post, so I brought it over here... seemed to fit well.


Of course there will be all kinds of posts about war, natural disasters, violent much destruction in the world.

But I wanted to explore something a bit more mundane. Something that captured the essence of life with children and the inevitable destruction that flows rampant in their wake.

This is a photo of my girls' room. You probably can't tell, but the carpet is a sandy colored shag, which is great for hiding wear. Unfortunately, it's also great for swallowing itty-bitty Polly Pocket shoes, legos and all the other minutae of childhood, which then get sucked into the vacuum vortex never to be seen again.

Or, if it happens to be a heavy magnetic geomag ball, it whips around the beater bar at such velocity that it blows a hole in the back of the vacuum, requiring yet another application of that universal problem-solver (sounds like something put out by the pentagon, doesn't it?)—duct tape!

This photo captures the essence of householding itself and the entropy held barely at bay by even the most assiduous. Sadly, it also serves as a symbol of so many parent/child relationships.

"Clean your room!" rings out, the unfortunate litany of beleaguered mothers across the country who unwittingly—or perhaps they can't help themselves because they really have become their mothers—turn a 12x12 space into a battleground upon which die innumerable relationships each week.

What if, instead of a battleground, a mom chose to turn this scene into an opportunity for connection, into precious moments spent getting to know children simply through the offer of help?

What if, instead, a mom presented her energy and aid as a gift to her children and helped them sort through their many treasures strewn across the floor as she might help a hopelessly disorganized friend find her basement, enjoying the conversation and connection along the way?

What if...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's the sound a cow makes?

That's not the sound a cow makes!

Now, that's the sound a cow makes.

Emily with our new cow, Bella. (Yes, for those of you who read my farm blog, we've finally settled on a name for her.) We have raw milk coming out the wazoo and it's wonderful!

Um, not really the wazoo, you know.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

The girls, my mom, and I headed over to the Sheep and Wool Festival in May, something I've been wanting to do for a few years. Now that we have our own sheep and the wool from a recent shearing, we were all motivated to go. Except the boys that is.

There were hundreds of vendors there and so many, many beautiful things. Really too much to take in in only one visit. The natural broom stall was a Harry Potter fan's dream, and the girls ooohed and ahhhed and wished they had the $60 to spend on one, especially those with the beautifully carved handles that Emily's admiring. We contented ourselves with photos and imagination in the end.

I could have spent at least another hour just looking at all the different breeds of sheep, several I'd never even heard of. Some of them were so huge that they looked more like miniature horses than sheep, like this Lincoln here in the background. I also got to see one of my favorite breeds, the Leicester Longwool and I fell in love with the Cotswolds. Something about those long curls just makes them irrisistable. Of course, I still adore my Navajo-Churros, especially their size! But mostly I love the range of natural color fiber they offer in lovely shades of browns and creams and blacks and grays. I spoke for a bit with one of the Dine who was there in the main showroom with some gorgeous (and fabulously expensive) Navajo rugs.

We had gone there looking for some tools to work our fiber, and unfortunately missed getting a Navajo spindle by about 2 minutes. The lady had just finished paying for it and felt so badly that we weren't going to get one that she offered to return it! I assured her that we could find another one or make one ourselves, but I thought it was a very sweet offer. We were able to pick up some wool carders and some felting needles, so we were pretty pleased. We also bought some of those lovely Cotswold curls dyed in a whole array of colors. Best part was that they were sold by a local farmer here in Maryland. The girls got to see lots of spinning and asked many questions, and we were all felting away into the night.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Building Beehives

We're getting bees this spring, and the first step is to build the hives, which arrived precut in about a thousand pieces. This quickly turned into a family affair even though the bees are my gardening thing.

The kids helped glue and hammer, and Jim lent his building expertise to be sure we didn't mess up (which, judging by this photo, I didn't always agree with!). We were able to get four hive bodies put together along with five frames. We still have two honey supers and 35 frames left to go! Once we're all done, we'll stain them and get them set up out in the hedgerow. Our bees will arrive mid-May, so we should be on a pretty good trajectory. I'll post pics once they're all set up outside.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Recent Projects

The kids have been exploring all kinds of things lately, so I thought I'd do a kind of catch-up post on their projects.

Lego building and dioramas:

Jules's dollhouse: You can't see all the details in the photo, but she's been making this all winter by herself. There's some sewing, some tape. Many of the household items have been fashioned out of sculpey. Up in the attic, there's lots of winter stores made from pipe cleaners and salvaged packaging—if I recall correctly, she has lots of pumpkins and gourds, onions, and lettuce. The circular blocks out in front represent the well, and the smaller building on the side is the barn with a goat stall and yellow straw bales in the loft. We have plans to begin knitting some oxen for her family, but I have to figure out how to cast on again before we get started. (It's hard to have to wait for mama to get stuff done!) Much of this is a spin-off of our reading this winter. Jules really loves the Little House on the Prairie series.

Gaming: Of course, there's been plenty of gaming around here between the new ds's and the gamecube. Computer games, too, hold loads of fun and learning. Sam's particular favorites right now are Call of Duty for the gamecube and Ages of Empire/ Mythology for the computer. These games have played into Sam's interest with guns and have spawned a huge interest in World War II.


And, of course, lots of other fun stuff. Reading is exploding around here, as we've enjoyed many, many books this winter. While we've always enjoyed reading, this has been the winter of the series book: Series of Unfortunate Events, Circle of Magic, Little House on the Prairie, Artemis Fowl. Both Emily and Julia are jumping into reading books on their own, and Emily in particular is becoming quite fluent, quite quickly, reading the Mysteries of Droon series on her own now. It's wonderful to watch all their interests emerge and overlap and lead into other things—the organic nature of learning is absolutely thrilling to see unfold.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Liberty Science Center

On a recent trip to my in-law's place in North Jersey, we spent the day at the Liberty Science Center, which is quite a fun little museum. Being so new, absolutely everything in there is hands-on, and there are several fun learning exhibits. Jules spent quite some time working out math puzzles—she and her grampa like doing the sudoku puzzles together.

I enjoyed the alternative energy room where we got to play around with solar, wind, and water power. We're hoping to pull together a small portable solar station to run our well pump during power outages, among other things. I also loved the huge Hoberman sphere in the lobby.

Sam really liked the balloon wall and the Eat and Be Eaten room with all the insects and animals. Em just loved being there and exploring everything! Another highlight was the observation deck where we got to see the Statue of Liberty. Just doesn't get cooler than that!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

November Catch Up

As promised in an earlier post, here are some photos of a couple of trips we took in November. We spent time at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in the rocks, minerals, and gems room, one of our favorites. This time the kiddos were really interested in looking at the jewelry and hearing the little history blurbs about where it came from—even Sam was dazzled by the gems' beauty and brilliance.

Afterwards, we walked over to the National Museum of the American Indian where we had lunch at our favorite cafe. We zoomed through the museum kind of quickly, as our time to escape the city before rush hour was quickly slipping away.

We were able to see the introductory movie this trip, though, which is well worth seeing if you're ever there. They do a great job of connecting the present and the past, debunking the still pervasive myth that Native people's and their culture are a thing of the past. One of the kids' favorite parts of the museum and a do not miss is the contact room with all the gold artifacts and weaponry. Sam picked out his favorite revolver, Em got a shot off with an old long rifle, but Jules apparently goes for the heavy fire!

Later that month we also took a trip down to Luray Caverns, in Virginia, which was a neat follow up to the Smithsonian trip, as we got to see some rock and mineral formations up close. We'd been to the caverns a few years back, but the kids didn't really remember it and were awed anew.

There are several really stunning moments in the caverns: the reflecting lake is gorgeous, and the stalactite organ is really cool and amazing to hear. The kids were especially taken with the organ. They did not, however, like experiencing total cave darkness—that pretty much freaked them out, as did the legend of Neptune's ghost, a specific formation in the caverns. But they loved, loved, loved the wishing well and being able to rub the "fried eggs" for good luck, the only formation they were allowed to touch.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making Butter

This month we made butter for the first time. It was easy and loads of fun to watch whipped cream turn into butter. As it whips past the stiff peaks it gradually takes on a yellowy color, and just when you think it will never go to butter, BAM! In the blink of an eye, all the buttermilk falls out and voila! Butter.

Once the butter has formed, simply drain off the buttermilk, and rinse the butter well under water, kneading it to remove any remaining buttermilk, which could cause it to turn rancid.