Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hugel Update (Wow)

So, uh, our hugel has turned into what I now call The Food Jungle. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Every single day I come back to the house with armfuls of yellow squashes, zucchini, and cucumbers. Some days I have a butternut squash and some tomatoes. It's crazy. 

So basically this means we've been eating a lot of squash and cukes. Nbd here, though. We've found some great recipes and since we're vegetarians, this is saving us a lot on groceries! 

Last week I made some kosher dill pickles from some of our cucumbers. I've made cucumber sandwiches and Benedictine for crackers and bread. Husband has made some amazing meals that are squash-heavy (Classic Calabacitas being one of our favorites!). 

All in all, we are very grateful to our mighty hugel for providing us with so much food. We've never gotten this much food out of a garden before and we've tried for years! Even when I am picking armloads of vegetables, I can see all of the things that will be pickable the next day. 

Long live the hugel! 

Monday, July 28, 2014


I mentioned a while back that there was some news from our family. You might have guessed it from the title: we have decided to try homeschooling our older daughter for the coming year. If it goes well, we will continue. If it doesn't, we gave it our best shot and hopefully helped her out a bit. Our younger daughter is going to be attending a special STEM school, which we are thrilled about, so she is not going to be homeschooled at this time.

I have been preparing by researching curriculum online, talking to friends who currently homeschool and finding out what has worked for them, and gathering some great resources on my Pinterest board, "Schooling at Home". Since our reasons for homeschooling are not religious, it is a little hard to filter through the multitude of religious homeschooling sites which initially look promising. However, I feel like I'm getting a little more comfortable with putting together lessons and such, and we will start full-on homeschooling when Sister goes back to school in a few weeks! There are some really helpful internet resources out there.

We are already doing a few lessons and getting caught up on math. For this I used (at Eryn's amazing recommendation! Thanks, Eryn!) Singapore Math's placement tests to find Miss S' actual math level. I ordered books off of Amazon (some were used and very cheap, so we got a great deal!) and we started in right away. I really like the way Singapore Math goes about teaching concepts. It seems to keep Miss S interested for a longer period of time than the math lessons she would bring home from school.

I also found some great apps, one of which sparked an entire unit we are going to do that is based around an Edgar Allan Poe poem! It encompasses (so far): art, reading, writing, public speaking/recitation, history, math, Spanish, and cooking/life skills. I'll share more info about this soon, as I'm still working through making the unit cohesive instead of just stuff I'm jotting down every time an idea hits me.

Although it's sort of daunting, I'm really looking forward to this challenge. Any advice would be much appreciated from those of you who are currently homeschooling a middle-schooler (or who have in the past).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Felix's Travels

Hi! It's been a while. I thought I would share some pictures that were sent to me from Felix the Fox's new home in Australia! So exciting!

I'm so happy that Felix has such a great new home. What a lucky fox! ^_^

Thursday, June 5, 2014

All Hail Our Mighty Hugel!

Wow. So, hugel update: the hugel is master of gardens. You may remember the pictures from when we first built our burial mound...uh, I mean hugelkultur. Now look at it!
Here lies our ancient king. Kidding, kidding...
Just look at it!

We aren't pulling the grasses up, because they are holding in the soil on the mound. These plants are getting enormous. Check it out! 
...and that's with my hand slightly closer to the camera!
Mr. Gnomey is being dwarfed by the plants. Heh.
(Don't even act like I don't know the difference between gnomes and dwarves. I'm just using some fanciful language.)
Plant fight! Intense!
So many flowers!
We planted three tiny tomato sprouts that we grew from seeds into the east side of the hugel, just to see how well they would do. Here are some small tomato plants we sprouted from seed that we planted in the normal old non-hugel ground:
There, in the center of the tomato cage. =/
Now look at them in the hugel:
These were started from the same seeds at the same time, planted at the same time, and basically everything is the same except the first picture is in the ground and the second is in the hugelkultur. !!

So there you have it. I'm convinced. Hugel > normal ol' dumb ol' flat ground. Anyone who has been using the hugel method, I would love to hear about your progress!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Chicken Trouble (or Not All Craigslist People are Shady)

We ran into some trouble with our chickens, Muffin, Gertrude, and Francis.
Hi, "ladies"!
The trouble was that we got them from a very shady character, way out in the country, who assured us that they were female (we can't have roosters in the city). Since they were so young, we couldn't tell. Well guess who started crowing this last weekend? All of them.

Yep, all three of them were roosters. Pretty infuriating, huh? We were pretty panicked about getting them out of the city and who would take them, but things turned out better than we could have imagined. 

Saturday Gertrude started crowing. A family took now-King-Gert (thanks, Eryn, for the name!) to be their rooster on their farm. He was set out with all the ladies and looked prouder than ever. We got a brown hen and named her Betty, and she's been giving us a brown egg everyday. 
Woooah Brown Betty, bam a lam
We brought Betty home and Muffin and Francis immediately started mounting her...and crowing. We were not out of the woods yet on this. After some frantic craigslisting, we met a woman in a parking lot of a nearby restaurant and she took Muffin and Francis to live on her five acres where she takes in unwanted animals to just hang out and live their lives. Wow! This really couldn't have gone any better. 

The moral of the story is that there are a lot of good-hearted people out there. Strangers, even. Also, now we are on the search for another hen. 

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A full weekend!

Isn't this warm weather nice? It's so refreshing to sleep with the windows open and let the still cool night air fill the bedrooms. 

We put the beautiful weather to good use this past weekend. Saturday morning we had my favorite breakfast, eggs over easy served with pesto, a sprinkle of romano cheese and a toasted croissant (what?!? You've never had pesto with your really ought to change that).

Then it was off to the library as a family. We have a wonderful, large library here and we make use of it regularly. We came home with scorpion books for the future arachnologist, bluebird books for the budding ornithologist, every led zeppelin album on cd for the husband, and I decided to take a break from reading my typical DIY/science/anthropology/homeschooling books and read a novel for pure pleasure. I chose Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callen Rogers because I liked the title and needed something New Englandy to read. It's pretty good so far :)

We happened upon the best rummage sale ever that afternoon and found some amazing treasures and people too! 

The buffet/hutch we have some really fun plans for! We are going to scrape off the peeling veneer and replace it with colorful mexican tiles, stain the wood darker, and replace the knobs with glass. This piece will be perfect for extra counter space in my small kitchen and will be great storage for all my cast iron which is currently camping on my stovetop.

The end tables we will leave as is, they are just beautiful, and for now the small vanity stand will stay as is until I decide exactly what I want to do with it. 

We also got some fantastic books and statues too!!!

Sunday was a quiet day at home as daddy went fishing on the big lake in the morning. I packed the boys up to head to the greenhouse to find some flowers to plant in the front beds. The hyacinth have passed and the tulips nearly have and nothing else had popped up. We had turned down the block when I spotted a "free day lillies" sign and the woman who had just pulled them out of her garden was kind enough to offer to drop them by the house for me (I'm still surprised sometimes just how nice people are in this part of the country). 

We spent our afternoon transplanting lillies into the front garden beds. She said they will match our shutters and door when they bloom! 

It was a very fulfilling weekend! I just love finding treasures and getting my hands in the dirt (and so did the boys). 

I hope your weekends are just as fun!!! What family activities do you enjoy in the warmer months?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Introducing Game Night......and a tire swing.

You may (or may not) know that we are a family of hockey fans. It started with my husband who grew up in a Midwest state that turns into a sub-zero frozen prarie several months out of the year. He spent his days shooting pucks for hours on end. The memories he has surrounding hockey are some if his favorites from childhood and the love of the game never left him.

In our early days together I decided to become a hockey "fan" too. I didn't understand much about the game itself, but figured it was the only major sport fast paced enough to hold my attention. Plus, I loved skating too (figure skating is a sport......don't listen to my husband)!

Now our two older boys play hockey and I have a feeling once the littlest is 3 he's gonna get padded up and sent out on the ice too. 

So what does this have to do with family game night? I'm getting there I promise. But first......

(That's his hockey face)

(He fell asleep in his Wild jersey during playoff game 7, they still won ;)

So when we first moved in to this house in September I VERY reluctantly agreed to getting cable. I'm not a tv person but my husband really wanted to be able to watch hockey season now that we live in the same region as his favorite team, Minnesota Wild. So I said okay, but we cancel it at the end of hockey season. It's round 2 of the playoffs (btw, I now understand a good deal of the game and have been known to yell while watching the game) and the season will be ending in the next few weeks. Which means family game night will be replacing hockey night (the boys finished hockey last week and have a 2 month break). 

We bought some new games since we didn't have too many that were fun for all of us. It's so fun having kids old enough to play games that parents find fun too ( I can only stand so many rounds of Candy Land). We bought Yahtzee, Family Trivial Pursuit, Clue, and Uno. I'm so excited to start doing this!!! Do you have a family game night in your home? What games do you enjoy?

Oh and we now have a tire swing!!! Though both boys will use it, it was an 8th birthday present from Oma to our middle son. He is loving it. 

Look at that big 8 year old of mine! He's such a sweet kid :)

He had a wonderful birthday, complete with a rice crispy treat scorpion (he wants to be an arachnologist) custom made by daddy.

Birthdays are always a little bittersweet for me. It's hard to know your babies are growing up, each year represents one less year of them being little, wanting to hold hands with me, or climbing in our bed when they have a bad dream....but it's also pretty incredible to watch them grow and see who they are becoming independent of us. I'm lucky, they still hold my hands, crawl in bed (sometimes) after a nightmare, and cuddle up on the sofa with me. They are good, loving kids. 

This middle boy of mine, he is so smart. He will work at any project till he has it just right. He's always happy and willing to help around the house. He loves to run around, ride his bike, and play outside for hours on end. I could go on with a very long list but I'll end with my favorite thing about him; he is an amazing brother! He is so caring and empathetic. I've never seen anyone who can get a baby laughing the way he does with his little brother. He loves spending time with his older brother too and is always trying to come up with things they can do together (this is not always appreciated by our oldest, but such is life with siblings).

Happy Birthday sweet boy! I love you to the moon and back again times infinity!