May 30, 2013

love (notes) abound

That girl of mine. She loves to write. Stories and songs and notes, notes above all. We find them everywhere. Under pillows, on desks, perched on a chair cushion. Birthday notes for birthdays that are months away, poems form her little heart, illustrations on the back of old envelopes.  I love it so. I have a stash of them in one of my dresser drawers, I am saving every single one.

May 28, 2013

busy like the bees

It rained and rained for most of the weekend, a soggy, cold holiday. Way too cold, especially after the long stretch of warmth. So for two days we stayed inside and played and knit and were generally lazy. And then came yesterday with the sun shining and chores calling. A new roof for the coop to let more light in on our ladies, the first of three garden beds planted out, branches trimmed away to let the sun shine on our garden. Busy, busy. A long, glorious day in the sun. Hauling hay to the coop, digging in potatoes, bringing the chicks out one by one to explore the real world.

The bees have been busy, capping the first of the honey (squee!) and feeding lots of new little bees, so busy that they didn't even notice when I broke into their hive to check their progress. Buzzing from dandelion to dandelion (their love of them has given me the perfect excuse to not weed the yard) and hauling in bright yellow pollen. I'm a little bit in awe of how much they do in there in the dark.

A sheep farmer down the road gave me two fleeces to play with, totally unwashed and just barely off the sheep and I spent part of the afternoon picking out of the worst of the yuck (otherwise known as skirting the wool) then washing and rewashing and rewashing. It's spread out to dry in the hammock now, which means that tomorrow I will have to start figuring out what comes next. Carding of flicking, depending on what I want to do with it I think. I haven't spun much this winter with so many knitting projects taking up my time. I've found (in the way that self taught spinners often do - by accident) that I generally spin worsted (not weight, it's a way of spinning) and this wool should probably be spun woolen. Or perhaps I'll try both and see how it goes. I certainly have enough to do a little experimenting. Maybe some dandelion dying. Or some carding together to make a little tweed.

Busy busy indeed.

May 23, 2013

digging in

Oh the garden. It seems like it's been a looooong time in coming. And it's still not done. Not that it will ever really be done. Or big enough. But I mean done enough to plant. We've got plants and sets to go in and I think we are past our frost date. I think. I hope.

Because we've got so many things that need to be done in the spring- grass to plant, flowers to put in, trees to chop down, firewood to get in and stack, chickens to chicken dance with, the garden will be smaller than I'd like this year an the paths are just hard ground with patches of mulch here and there where we filled low places. But still, there's soil and walls to keep it (sort of) in. So we are almost there. Ready to plant.

Since we've got a lot (a LOT) of fallen rotted wood and leaf mulch laying around, we are trying something new this year. Hugelkultur, which I found while puttering around Pinterest looking at woodland gardens. The idea, as I understand it, is to fill the bed up mostly with rotted wood and then composted leaf mulch and then soil on the top. The plan being that the wood both rots into nice, mulch soil eventually and in the meantime it hold water from the rain, releasing it to the plants as needed. At least that's the plan. We'll see if it actually works once we have all the soil in and the plants planted.

Where are you in your garden plans for the summer?

May 22, 2013

fur pants on a wednesday morning

You never know where motherhood will take you. In a single day you might be wiping noses, helping with algebra, baking snacks for a school party and sending out emails to the soccer team reminding everyone of the next game on top of making sure everyone gets fed and dropped off at the right place at the right time. It's how motherhood, parenthood roles. Never a dull moment. You might be cleaning rooms (borderline disgusting when you have a pre-teen) or reading with a class or filling out camp forms or, you know, sitting at home on a beautiful Wednesday morning making fur pants for your ten year old.

Have I talked much about my children's school? It's the kind of place that former teachers dream of sending their kids. It's an amazing place. A sort of waldorfy, montessouriy, crazy Vermonty public school where the nicest lady in the world makes HOME MADE BREAD every day for lunch and grows most of the vegetables for the school's meals. Where my kids have skiing lessons AND swimming lessons as part of the curriculum and where I have never once heard, not even from my ten year old, "I don't want to go to school." They paint and sing and go fishing and build forts and still manage to do all the normal school things. It's a pretty awesome place.

The first week of school I attended a parents meeting for the upper grades to learn about their systems, their reliance on kids being responsible for most things and just generally how things worked, and at the end of the meeting one of the teachers said "And the kids are not even allowed to ASK about The Battle of Sparta until after Christmas."

This left me a little, flummoxed, but I just went with it. I decided it was like the best piece of advice I got prior to heading off to the U of O for my freshman year "If anyone asks if you've read the worlds funniest joke book say yes and IMMEDIATELY WALK AWAY." It's the kind of advice that you don't really understand until the moment it becomes relevant, and then you're glad you know it (I used that, by the way, within my first few hours of being on campus) So I put Sparta out of my mind.

And then came spring and The Greek Unit. The kids are divided into Greek City States and are battling it out (mostly with costumes, food and knowledge, no actual fighting) for top honors a la the Hogwarts House Cup. Yes, it's awesome. And time consuming. But also fun. SO far we've made, two togas (chiton, actually, not that I know the difference, but he does) full Spartan Armor our of mostly duct tape with a wreath form and a little cardboard thrown in for support, baked Greek bread in the shape of a lyre, gone through two cans of bronze spray paint and one of red, and read a lot of Greek Mythology. There have been models of ships and usable battle carts and many types of food, all leading up the the banquet of the gods where Briton will be playing the roll of Pan. Hence the fur pants.

Now I just need to go make some horns and dye a t-shirt skin tones (he wanted to go bare chested but I'm thinking that's not really the best plan) and clean up the stray fur off my dining room floor. It looks like a particularly vicious fisher-cat fight happened in there at the moment.

May 20, 2013

the ladies

Our little chicken are, predictably, getting a lot of love and attention (how could they not with all that fluffiness?) and so they are very used to us already. They eat quite happily out of our hands and hop up onto our fingers  and cheep loudly until we open the door to the bathroom (their temporary home) when the stop and look at us expectantly, hoping for food or playtime, which we generally offer up with smiles and coos.

The older ladies, also predictably, are a little more standoffish. They were raised among lots of other hens in a large farmyard with no kids around. Although they had lots of dogs and are absolutely not afraid of Nigella. In fact, this weekend, as everyone but the cats puttered in the garden, it became pretty clear who is in charge of the backyard (it's not the dog, in case you were wondering) But little by little, they are getting used to us. They don't run to the other side of the coop when we approach anymore and once we catch them when they are roaming (still a little tricky, but we're getting there) they are happy to be held and pet and generally loved on.

It's been a long time since we had chickens in our yard. In Charlottesville, of course, we had the neighborhood coop, but it wasn't quite the same. Having them clucking and boking away as I check the bees or watch the kids or just walk to the car makes me smile. Every time.

 Two eggs a day doesn't hurt either.

May 16, 2013

green green mountains

It happened all of a sudden. For so long it's been everything but green. Reds and yellows and ambers in fall. And then the brown of stick season and the white of winter. And the yuck of mud. It felt like the green would never come back and then one weekend, it was. Green, green as far as you can see. Every drive is breathtaking. Every view is beautiful. Zipping down the highway puts me in awe, once again, that I get to live here. Green is my favorite color and this week I have been remembering how enchanted I was with all it's shade when we first moved here. It hasn't worn off. In fact, I think it's only gotten worse.

May 15, 2013

there was a little girl

Who had a little curl.

Well, not in the middle of her forehead, but right at the nape of that kissable neck. She has, suddenly, gotten so tall and grown up it seems. Not too grown up for cuddles, but still...

Every time I see that curl I want to run over and kiss her. In fact, most of the time. That's just what I do.

May 13, 2013

chicks and bees

It occurred to me yesterday afternoon, as I stood in a grubbier than normal barnyard wearing my new summer tunic (finished that morning because I can't seem to sleep in, even on Mother's Day), my best wool pants and my favorite strappy heels picking out chickens that, in our 17 years together, Will's best surprises have all been marked by me being inappropriately dressed for the situation.

There was that time in college when he woke me up before dawn, handed me a backpack and talked me into walking halfway across Eugene in my Pajamas to surprise me with a train trip to Seattle. In my pajamas.

Or there was the night he proposed to me while I was wearing a pair of his old jeans held up with a rope belt and my oldest, grubbiest sweater because I thought we were going crabbing. Actually,w e did go crabbing, but only after the proposal.

And then yesterday, when he and the kids plotted to surprise me with chickens for Mother's Day.

All awesome, wonderful, totally perfect for me surprises. The inappropriate dress is just part of the game I think.

We have had a very busy weekend here at our house. Or gosh, maybe I should start calling it a farm, the way we're going. Bees and chicks and hens and a finished (barely in the nick of time) coop and progress on the garden and lots of hand drawn cards from my sweet babes. The bees arrived safe and sounds, although half a day late so that we rushed to get them in before the sun went down. The only hiccup in transferring them to their new home was me forgetting to change my shoes from sandals (another instance of inappropriate dress, clearly it's me) and getting a wee little sting on one foot when I stepped on a bee. My fault entirely. Otherwise they were gentle and well mannered and much more interested in bumming around together and eating than what I was doing. I did order Italian bees for a reason. This morning I opened the hive again to check that the queen had escaped her cage, which she had. I did not manage to spot her but the bees were busy building comb and were clumped around one spot so I imagine she was in there being pampered.

The chicks, three Buff Orpington named Rose, Dorothy and Blanch, aka "The Golden Girls" and two Americanas named Feather and Princess Leia, are safely ensconced under a heat lamp in our bathroom, peeping their little hearts out and their elderly sisters, two adult Barred Rocks who are a little camera shy but are named Henny Penny and Minerva Louise are whooping it up in the coop from the sound of their clucking this morning. Hopefully we'll have a few eggs by nightfall.

So, whew, busy. And lovely. And perfect.

May 10, 2013

a little nervous

I've wanted bees for years. Honestly, I'm not exaggerating, years. I think I took my beekeeping class three years ago, and at that point I was SERIOUS about bees. But for as long as I can remember, the beekeeping pages of my dad's (and then later my own copy) of John Seymour (yes, it's very strange that I enjoyed reading that as a teenager, I know, what can I say?) were among my favorite.

But now that we are one day away from the bees actually arriving, I'm nervous. Because the thing is, after all the reading and classes and videos, I still feel like I have NO IDEA what I'm doing. Actually I know I have no idea what I'm doing. Will and I watched the slightly hilarious DVD that came with our hive and at the end he looked at me and asked "you know how to do all that?"



NO! I do NOT know how to dump 3 pounds of buzzing, stinging, live bees into the hive that may or may not be in the right place in our garden. No I do not know how to make the right sugar solution to feed them while they get established and I DEFINITELY  do not know how to check and see if my colony is healthy. I don't. I've read about it and watched countless videos and asked lots of questions....but still....

Deep Breath.

Nothing like learning on the job, right?

May 7, 2013


Thank goodness spring evenings are long. Time enough between dinner - which has lately been eaten hurridly on the porch instead of at the table, the better to get it doen quickly and get outside - and bedtime to have a few precious hours of time in the yard. I won't say garden, because it isn't, yet, but we're getting there. There are so many things I want to do to the yard, too many. Landscaping and grass for playing and tree thinning here and planting there and the vegetable garden and the bee yard and the chicken yarn and a place to sit and eat and laze the summer days away. Too many to realiztically get it done this year. I keep reminding myself that there will be other springs and summers to turn our little bit of neglected woods into the something we have in mind.

Right now we are focusing on the impending needs. Seedlings that need to go into the ground in the next week, bees that will arrive in a matter of days, chickens that need to be bought before it becomes too hard to find what we want. So it's a few beds, instead of many. And if the coop is unpainted for a while, well, so be it. There is no pretty path to the bee yard, just an area wide enough to walk where the blackberries have (I hope) been whacked back into oblivion (the rest have been left alone because...well...blackberry honey sounds pretty good, doesn't it?) There is a lot of bare earth where the bread oven or the flower beds or the grill or the grass will go, when we get to it. In time. I just have to keep chanting that. All in good time.