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No Fear Parenting


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Not too long ago, just a few months in fact, a horse and young rider appeared through the woods in front of my house. The boy, just 10 years old, in his worn chaps, boots, and cowboy hat, tied the horse and played for an hour or two with my kids. I fed him good in case he might faint, offered water to the horse lest it fail, and warned him about the coming storm. The cowboy, who’d grown a few inches in the short span of that afternoon, laughed at my handwringing and rode the twelve miles (10 as the crow flies) back home, crossing one major road, then through fields and sagebrush and wild terrain.

As he left, I’d made him promise to call me when he got home, and it was clear I was the only one afraid of the looming thunderclouds, I could see it in his plucky blue eyes. The call came a few hours later, “Mrs. T, you don’t have to worry, I’m in the fields near my house now, I made it.”

I cringed for just a moment, wondering if I’d ever have the courage and steady mind of this boy’s mother, sending my babies off into the wilderness like that — Bears, cougars, snakes! Mostly, I was just in awe at the common-sense no-fear parenting in action. The lack of a parent tagging along in this little narrative only means, let me assure you, that this family has raised a confident and skilled young man. (Mom called me later to see how the whole thing unfolded and I praised her fortitude!) Yes, the boy comes from a long line of rugged pioneer stock and rides a horse as well as he walks — and had a cell phone and a hunting knife on him. And he’s been trained in survival skills practically since he was born — there is the balance.

Me? I send my kids to school with their own personal hand-sanitizers and force them to wear coats because I am cold. What kind of moral virtue and perseverance is that teaching?

In the meantime, I’ll be working toward not over-sanitizing my kids’ childhoods. Watch out, they may not gallop ten miles to a friend’s house, but maybe I’ll let them go bird hunting by themselves on the back 10 acres.

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Odds and Ends from Good Friday


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cats in juniper

It feels like Spring and Sunday is coming! I sat up in the tree fort with my ten-year-old for a good spell today, she thinking about picking out her 4H lamb later today, I drinking coffee and enjoying the breezy, lazy feeling of watching clouds dance along against the bright blue, realizing it’s been far too long since I just sat like this and wondering whether Josie would remember this moment when she’s all grown up. The cats joined our reverie. I had a dream last night that Josie fell…off of something, I can’t remember the fuzzy details, but I made sure to help her down the wooden rails nailed into the old Juniper trunk.

Jaime found Ralph just minutes ago. He’s a Blue Belly Lizard she caught and marked (with purple nail polish) last September. He used to be 2 1/2 inches long, now he’s 5 inches long. I love that she thought to mark and chart her wildlife finds and that it’s come full circle for her–she is immensely pleased. She says he’s favoring one eye, left-over wounds from the cat.

Luke pulled on his swim trunks, because when you’re eight and you hit a nice spring day, you think it’s summertime and you look for a swimming hole. I’ve sent him out to wash the car.

Levi has a friend over, the other Luke who we call the bottomless pit and he’s plowed through several Dagwood sandwiches already, but he did the pruning in my garden for me and more than worked it off. Now the older boys are playing frisbee which already required two trips to the rooftop to fetch a wayward disc. Levi climbed out his second-story bedroom window and I held my breath and looked the other way.

As I glance out my window now, all the boys are sparkling wet, somehow the car is forgotten and they have wild grins and raucous laughter, their bare white chests soaking up a few rays and welcoming spring.

It’s a good Friday.

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Last week of May in pictures


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Because don’t all little boys read comic books dressed up in motorcycle clothes? (Waiting his turn to ride.)

MotoReader

It was a full week, that last bit of May here in the country. Someday life won’t be so overflowing with noise and ruckus, dirt and wild animals–and wild children, so dear diary, help me remember this for the quiet days ahead.

The youngest son learned how to ride a motorcycle, a little 50 minibike that his big brother used to ride. Now I have four children on motorcycles and I just work hard to push out of my mind those incidents that are bound to happen: run-ins with rocks, scraped up knees, broken bones. He ran in to proudly tell me, “I only ran into three trees, Mama!”

first time around for little L
Now he's getting confident
The big event of the week was the birthday of my girl who turned eleven. Dad surprised her with a Honda XR 80, as she’s fabulously outgrown the 50. She amazed us all with her strength and ability to master this thing immediately. She also helped her little brother and sister learn to ride her old bike, and I’m just so proud of her as a teacher as well as a fun-loving tomboy.

birthday surprise
Look at her go!
There really was more than dirt bikes in the week. We roasted marshmallows and ate s’mores at the fire pit out back. My oldest son built a perfect fire and we enjoyed good family time and made memories around the flames.

campfire and s'mores

As a minor upset, the neighbor’s dog attacked the 4H lambs while the girls were out walking them. Some doctoring up was in order, and our neighbor, affectionately known as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, came and helped us out. We discovered the miracle of Vetericyn for wound care.

dog bite on lamb leg, ouchwrapping the lamb leg

Our own dog, ever a central figure in days around the ranch, brought us a few gifts: baby jackrabbits. He dug up a nest somewhere out in the sagebrush, and trotting over with little ears hanging out of his mouth, deposited them on the lawn, completely unharmed though slobbering wet. We’re letting the girls keep them for a week or so to “nurse” them, then release them. It’s not at all advisable to try to raise a wild rabbit, but we figured either way (dropping them back in the desert somewhere or nursing them) was about the same level of success–which is to say, not much of a chance of survival either way. We’ve been through this before.

nursing baby jackrabbit
The blessings just keep coming, and I am here counting them, truly grateful for every moment.

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Moon glory


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Oh glory, who turned on all the lights?! Ah, it’s just the moon, so bright it’s casting sun-like shadows off the junipers, and the long slants of silhouette stretching far off the posts of the lamb pen belong to the day.

It’s well past midnight, and I sit here unable to sleep, a John Wayne-sized mug of mint tea warming my hands and lips–there is literally a picture of John Wayne on the mug–and half think about how easily I could read a book out there right now. But really, how could I even take my eyes off the moon with no walls to obscure the glory?

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:1-4

All Things Bright and Beautiful


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snowy morning

Out my wintry window today, I think of Mrs. Cecil Alexander, who penned in 1848, “All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful; The Lord God made them all.”

My older son says the world is a better place when there’s snow, and it certainly is bright and beautiful. The way the snow sits in a cluster on the junipers, the tracks that leave behind a larger you, the way my child contours an image and shape with what was once water, it’s all so other-worldly, and I know why he loves this.

Boots, hats, gloves! I see growing spheres of snow, half-bodies waiting to be put together. What compares to rosy cheeks, snowballs flying, frosty eyelashes, and pure happiness hung in crystals?

snowforts

Who would have ever thought to do it this way but the One who sent that other white manna from Heaven? Manna that brings joy, that is for the day, that brings sweetness to the soul and melts in the mouth–this snowy provision is a gift.

The kids are out gathering early this morning, and those who are prone to fight have assembled in harmony, harvesting the plenty, powdered white as far as the eye can see.

snowscape front yard
snow cat

Bright and beautiful manna. Taste and see–and tell.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

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Fair Time!


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It was county fair time last week, and the kids and I quietly gathered a few items to exhibit in the open class…just for fun.

A few of my photographs…this first one, such a sweet little duckling, and such a sad story! My dear friend Linda, my country neighbor…her little son called me up several weeks ago, entreating us all to come and see! the baby ducks had been born! We all just oohed and ahed at the darlings, hiding there under the mama. It was hot, and a tray of water had been set out for them to wade in. Somehow, no one quite knows how, every one of the six ducklings drowned two days after this picture. I’ll frame this for Linda.
Rawlins duck

This old fence, like any other country fence, its splintered wood and barbed wire marking a boundary, just captured me. Who twisted those wires way back before rust took hold? What was this barrier keeping in or keeping out?
wire fene

Did you grow up looking forward to the fair? For me it was the Cochise County Fair in Douglas, Arizona when I was very young. You must know about the cotton candy, cowboy hats and rodeo, happy music, dizzying rides, the earthy smell of livestock, colorful people? Oh, I loved it, and also that long, quiet ride home, all exhausted from that spun out endless day, sleepy eyes on the black sky with twinkling stars, one with my name, and if I turned my head back I could still see the fireworks exploding against that great dark canopy above.

My last year there, I brought my 4-H lamb. There under the bluest sky with those classic Arizona clouds, little white puffs that went on forever, I washed my lamb in the livestock pen, preparing for a final shear, adding to those little white puffs above. This was a market lamb, and this was time for goodbye, a goodbye to daily feedings, walkings, worrying about weight, wool, and bracing a lamb. I remembered when I chose this one, there at Diane’s place down the dusty road from me, and I had the last pick since I drew the shortest straw, but this was the best lamb for me, even though he escaped more than once to explore the tumbleweeds.

My kids didn’t have animals to show this year, but perhaps next time. We submitted photographs, carvings, crafts, paintings, and joined the community of people that have been gathering for a century to show the best of their harvest and hands.

Luke won a blue ribbon for his angry-browed, scar-faced, Victorian button-eyed bear.
bluebear--is this supposed to be comforting?

Josie won a second-place ribbon for her watercolor of a glass bottle. I was glad the judges overlooked the potential awkwardness of an eight-year-old painting a wine bottle, but she just loved the design on the label.
Josie's Fish Eye bottle

Levi’s soap carving was fun, another second place. After learning how to do this at school, we spent a terrific summer day at the table slipping about in soap shavings, all the children armed with butter knives and Ivory, and Levi was the only one who could master this art. I remembered him telling his teacher, “I didn’t know I could do this.”
Fish Soap Carving
Then there were the “crazy critters”–those healthy creatures carved from our very food, the cucumber shark, the apple swan, and the potato porcupine.
the cucumber shark

apple swan

potato porcupine

Until next year, my fair friends.

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Stormy, Yellow Thoughts of Thunder and Puddles


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Kitty likes umbrella in the rain, too

The potbellied raindrops came thundering down, the cat hid under the bed, the dog barked at the booms, the kids danced all silly out there under umbrellas, and I was in awe. Don’t you love a good storm?

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders. ~Psalm 29:3

It was rolling out there last night and I couldn’t take my eyes off the yellow hue of the sky, the light spectrum showing off a new reflection. Now, yellow can have a lowly meaning, as in a yellow-bellied coward. But did you know that a pure, bright yellow is the easiest color to see and that some people blind to other colors can usually still see yellow? And yellow can also symbolize wisdom, intelligence, joy, creativity, and of course energy, as in the powerful energy source of the sun. Have you seen yellow after a storm?

It’s His glory I hear in every rumble and His splendor I see in every strike of light. I do feel small at times like these, and wonder who am I that you are mindful of me?

And then, suddenly, the sun broke through! If only you could have seen through the new lens that flipped, creating vivid, high-contrast shadows thrown long from the junipers, you’d beam and be in awe, too. Thunder still pealed in the distance, echoing a reminder from a far corridor that God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways and he does great things beyond our understanding (Job 37:5).

Luke found a puddle in the midst of this, as all children do, his toes squishing the sticky earth as delighted as a rhino taking a mud bath, while rain pelted his enormous maroon and white umbrella, magnifying the sound of every drop to the decibel of a cannon. I did the same as a child, and would have wondered at any kid in my desert who didn’t like to jump puddles with face in the rain.

Why is this so, this irresistible draw to these pools in the mud? Maybe we’re born to love this, some wild sense of freedom and power, and weren’t we born of the dirt anyway? That day when God scooped up a handful of soil from the ground, it must have been wet and moist, for in those days before the rain the water came from the depths. We all desire to know where we come from, and this was the beginning.

And could it be there’s a sense in this small puddle of the child feeling so big it’s like walking on water? That’s what Jesus did in a storm–He walked on water, so I suppose it’s natural for us to long for the same.

Today, there’s no trace of the storm. It fled fast across mountains and plains for new encounters, and I’m left with the reverberations in my head, and continued pondering of His displays of power. As Psalm 29 ends, after a vivid description of God in the storms, we’re told that “the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Peace to you~I love that it ends with peace.

{Counting One Thousand Gifts~41-50}:

::thunderstorms::best friends::visiting sisters::tennis with child and grandma::chess with a friend::wildflowers picked for me::great coaches::boys learning football::catching crawdads::river play::

Cheri and me, so fun to catch up!JJ & Kailie, best buds!
Nancy comes to visit!
Luke learns tennis!JoJo loves tennis, too
Grandma plays at 82!
Levi teaches Charlie some chess
Josie picked me this gorgeous wildflower!
Levi learns some football
awesome football coach!

Deschutes River fun
Jaime's up to it again...catching crawdads

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To Give a Gerbil a Bath


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shivering gerbil

I didn’t know a wet gerbil would cause me to laugh hysterically. He looks so…cold. Or is he just shivering because he can’t remember his letters?

Who does such a thing, bathing gerbils like babies? Was this really out of concern for gerbil hygiene, or a chance to play parent, or just something fun to pass the time? I do like to think the best, I’ll go for hygiene.

little L and gerbil

In this boy’s defense, he was simply aiding his big sister, owner of the gerbil pair. It does take two or three extra hands to give a gerbil a proper bath, what with all the squeaking and squirming attempts at freedom. But of course, what little boy can resist a flurry of animal activity?

JJ bathing gerbilsI was actually shocked at how dirty the water was. Truth be told, this was the rodents’ first bath, so we witnessed about a year’s worth of dirt, oils, bedding, and WHO knows what being washed away.

And another truth be told, I’m pretty sure I saw a smile flit across the whiskers of Mika and Merlin. These gerbils have a good life here in our schoolroom, sitting quietly (save for the incessant turning and grating of the wheel) while the kids learn sounds and signs and names and places. If a bit of freedom meant also getting soaked to the skin, what’s that to a desert rat? Especially considering the last time they roamed free, one skinny tail got stepped on and lost. Yes, this bath was a good thing.

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What makes a desert beautiful?


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Life, death, and the breath of God — we were blessed to see all on a simple hike through our spring desert last weekend.

{life}
hiking down the east end of our property
first lizards of the season sunning
our kitty hiked with us

{death}
full skeleton of a deer?

lightning-struck tree near the edge of our land

{the breath of God}
alpine forget-me-nots in hiding
yellow-bells opening slow

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Three little kittens have lost their mittens…


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our three cats

…and I began to cry.

Our lovely trio of orange tabbies has dwindled to two. Chubsters, on the far left in this photo, disappeared four days ago. We hope and pray for his safe return, but this is the third cat we’ve lost out here.

The neighbors down the lane warned us when we moved here to not have outdoor cats. Their 30 years of experience in this wild desert place taught them that if the coyotes don’t get the cats, the owls will, and they even spoke with fear of the occasional cougar.

I have unfortunate dander allergies and keeping an indoor cat is a bad option for us. And we need help keeping the rodents down outside the place. We took our chances. These fastidious felines who so generously groom one another also leave us mousy gifts at the doorstep most days.

We took chances on the wild, but made sure the boys were fixed to prevent wandering and also made sure the cats had lots of good food and love–an easy task with four doting children who are forever kissing, carrying, stroking their softness– and even a cozy cat house, and as much indoor time as my sinuses would allow.

Chubsters had a glorious life here. I’ve been out looking for him everyday, the children call him at all hours, but nothing. We miss him.

The dog misses him.
our dog and cat

The night before he went missing, my husband heard the howling in the fog of his dreams. Coyotes close, too close, and he wondered why the dog didn’t bark. Could it be? A broad owl swooped out of a tree just ahead of him on his run that day. Was it?

We like to think he’s just out visiting new sights and will be home any time. We see him in every bunch of golden waving grass and coppery downed log. We hear mewling in the wind and in the creak of the door.

Return to us dear one; and if you can’t, may you rest in peace.

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In the Garden with Children


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Little L with his sunflower

{Parts of this post were previously published here at Diary of 1 on April 6, 2008.}

Planning, planting, nurturing, enjoying the beauty and the bounty~there are so many facets to a child’s gardening experience that makes planting a garden one of the most treasured gifts you can give your child.

You should have no trouble in getting a child to garden with you. No surprise, children are drawn to dirt like nothing else! You mean you want me to dig holes? I’m allowed to get filthy and mucky? To direct that childish energy and wonder into a productive endeavor like a garden is not only wise on the part of the parent, it’s a lifelong blessing to both of you.

Jo diggingJoJo spent several hours some time ago with her pint-sized rake and shovel. I was working on the main garden area while she staked out a spot of her own. The other children were doing likewise. I hesitated a moment when suddenly all the kids wanted their own garden space in addition to the main garden. Was this okay? Would I be teaching them to be selfish and look out only for themselves?

I ended up deciding that the sense of community and family in the main garden would not at all be diminished by each child’s ownership in their own scratch of earth. In fact, it would probably deepen their respect for the family garden, knowing the responsibility and effort their own gardens required.

I found a wonderful book to guide me through some activities to do in the garden with children. It’s called Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: gardening together with children, by Sharon Lovejoy. The book covers not only the basics of how to plan, plant, and care for your garden, but the top 20 plants for kids, theme garden ideas, and many little bits of garden wisdom.

I would say that my first tip for gardening with children is to involve them in every decision. Where should we put the garden? Is this spot too shady or too sunny? This area is nice and level, but we’ll have to dig up some rocks, is that okay? What shape do we want the garden to be? What should we plant that will thrive in our region? Let’s test the soil and decide what supplements we may need. All of the issues that arise in the planning of the garden are incredible teaching tools, and there’s no better way for your kids to really understand the complexity – and joy – of it all than to walk through it with you step by step. And the sense of ownership will be there from the start – the greatest motivator I know. I never have to twist their arms to go work on the garden.

JoJo watering

Here are the top 20 plants for children to grow. This list comes from Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots, based on the fact they are proven winners:

They have personality, fragrance, texture, and color — vibrant color. They grow quickly — something kids need in response to their work. And they’re versatile; they can be used as jewelry, toys, clothes, musical instruments, and household utensils.

1. Pumpkins
2. Sunflowers
3. Gourds
4. Corn
5. Berries
6. Hollyhocks
7. Carrots
8. Mimosa
9. Poppies
10. Tomatoes
11. Trees
12. Alliums
13. Potatoes
14. Woolly Lamb’s Ear
15. Four-O’Clocks
16. Evening Primroses
17. Radishes
18. Nasturtium
19. Moon Plant
20. Lemon Verbena

Do keep in mind your climate – some of these will fare better than others depending on where you live. In Central Oregon, for example, root crops like potatoes and carrots grow well with our short growing season and cool nights; but for some vegetables like corn or tomatoes, a short-season variety is a must for your plant to mature.

the kids harvesting potatoes

Theme gardens can be a joy for children, and I’ll highlight just one of the themes from Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: the pizza patch.

The Pizza Patch: gardening in the round is sure to delight children who are used to seeing a straight-row vegetable garden. This pizza patch garden is a giant sized six-foot-wide wheel shaped plot, divided into seven great wedges and edged with a thick rock crust. Ms. Lovejoy suggests the following ingredients for your pizza patch garden, but you can add other favorites as well:

3 seedlings plum tomatoes
6 seedlings cherry tomatoes
3 seedlings small eggplants
3 seedlings bell peppers
1 seedling zucchini
1 seedling rosemary
3 seedlings oregano
3 seedlings basil
3 seedlings onions
3 seedlings garlic
6 seedlings “Lemon Gem” marigolds
6 seedlings “Kablouna” Calendulas
Aged, bagged manure

To begin this project, select a flat 10×10 foot plot of ground that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. Place a stake in the center of the area, and tie a 3-foot string to it. Your child can take hold of the very end of the string and walk in a circle, while another child walks behind with a hoe to mark what will be the outer boundary of the garden bed.

Divide the garden into slices: mark spots at 32 inch intervals along the outer edge. Draw a line with a stick from each of the seven marks to the center stake, to denote the seven slices. Then place rocks along those lines for a permanent boundary, and you can remove the center stake.

Place the five tall vegetables in each of the five slices on the northern side of the wheel – the plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, and zucchini. In a slice on the south side, plant the herbs, onions, and garlic. Set aside one slice to be the pathway for the little feet tending the garden. The bright gold marigolds and Calendulas can be filled in around the vegetables and herbs, the “cheese” of the pizza.

To plant each slice, start from the center and work your way out. Plant tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, and zucchini 12-18 inches apart. In the small herb slice, space them 6 inches apart from the onions and garlic. The flowers are scattered throughout each slice, but allow 3 inches between them and other plants.

When harvest time comes, you can throw a big pizza party with toppings straight from the garden!

You can find more fabulous garden ideas and activities to do with children, such as a sunflower house, container gardens, and a moon garden, in Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots.

Don’t forget to teach your children about the use and care of gardening equipment, about watering requirements for various plants, and about safe weed/pest control. You can also measure plants, make growth predictions, learn about pollination, visit with a master gardener…the opportunities in a garden are endless. Mostly, just have fun!

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Homeschool Recess


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digging forts at recess

Recess on the ranch is more fun than I remember from my childhood schoolyard. My school playground wasn’t nearly as bad as some (at least I had one), and I loved swinging the tetherball and merry-go-rounding, but I still have shadowy memories of pulled hair, pavement, and skipped turns.

Over here, though, our homeschool co-op kids get to build forts, dig holes while belting out “From the Halls of Montezuma” and run wild with all God’s creation for their recess. In my yard yesterday, toes curled around shovel heads, small hands arranged sticks, muscles flexed under loads of dirt. Real play in a real place.

And I breathed slow, inhaling the moment, that springtime of life that was all exhilaration and wonder. We are blessed.

What do you remember most about your school days? I’ll bet recess is among the top memories, whether good or bad.

*****
Links for your week:
Christian Carnival
Homeschool Carnival

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Conversations with a little boy.


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I love him, I love his ideas, and gosh, I wish I could just jump in there sometimes and see it in full color. This must be how it is with children; they slow down enough once in a while to share a piece of the rolling film, but it’s only a shadow of the lively non-stop, action-packed thriller that is the mind of a six-year-old boy.

Mom, are there really angels guarding the Garden of Eden? Are treasures buried there? Would I be able to see the angels if I found the garden? I hope so, and I hope they would tell me where the treasures are buried.

DSC_0751.JPG

Mom, am I a Jew? Because Jews are God’s people, and I’m God’s people.

DSC_0706.JPG

A few days ago, he sat on the floor playing with an airplane “slingshot” toy as Grandma sang an old song that I remember her singing to me as a child. Well, she doesn’t really sing it to anyone, just an unconscious singing. Sitting small in the cushioned chair with pillow tucked behind her gray and her songs, she stared into yesterday:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun. Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, at ‘em boys, give ‘er the gun! Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps!

“I CAN!” shouted my little boy, aiming his airplane for a sure fire into the chair. And he was off, in the heat of battle, just him and Grandma’s song, conquering the skies.

**********
A few links for your week:
Christian Carnival
Carnival of Homeschooling

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Spaghetti Squash to Iron Man


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Spaghetti squash, baked with butter and brown sugar, is quickly eaten by my girls. I had a heck of a time getting it to the oven, what with my dull knife and its tough skin. What an amazing creation, this squash, right up there with the pomegranate in its ability to make your mouth water and your fingers cramp as you ready it for consumption.

Someone we know is training for a triathlon, and upon reading the nutrition section of Joe Friel’s Triathlete’s Training Bible, he’s been requesting unusual amounts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. What happened to my meat and potatoes man, his wife wondered? He’s still there, but make it lean, if you please.

Please enjoy this picture of me risking my digits to cut a fresh pineapple in honor of the health conscious athletes in my own family. And do look closely at the bowl, for each and every pomegranate aril was hard fought and I even had to do some research to learn how to de-seed this ancient fruit without ending up in an awful pulpy mess.

Pinapple Pomegranate Salad

I’m actually having fun with with exotic fruits lately, and may have to expand beyond my small town grocer in search of things stranger and wilder. I have the idea that the more bizarre the fruit, the healthier it must be.

Little L Iron ManHere is my little boy’s idea of an Iron Man, versus that world famous triathlon called the Ironman. I do believe I would sooner suit up like him and be Iron Man versus do Ironman. But either way, it’s all good! And fruity. I’ll write to you from Kona someday.

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I shined my sinks, and other news.


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I finally took the Flylady’s advice and did something about my grimy sinks. They are so sparkling at the moment! No one dare set a dish in there, please. My husband actually noticed on his own, first thing upon entering the kitchen. I was feeling pretty good until he saw my cheat sheet on the counter–the organizing lady’s directions, everything from getting dressed to the shoes to how to do crisis cleaning (like, someone’s coming to stay with us for Christmas vacation!).

Dinner tonight was rice and beans; a tip from another helper I like, Dave Ramsey. It’s a lovely meal, really; there’s a lot you can do with simple grains and legumes. I just heard of someone making fantastic East Indian recipes nearly every day with rice and beans that are gourmet meals. Mr. Ramsey’s basic advice is to try to live on very little as you are working your way out of debt or as you are trying to save.

In other mundane news, as if the condition of my sinks or beans didn’t bore you enough, I’m nearly caught up on laundry. Due to a certain child throwing 1/3 of his clothing down the chute in lieu of putting said clean clothes in the drawers, I had to rewash everything, not knowing what was soiled and what was fresh. We had a meeting, it won’t happen again.

Is it truly just about 20 day until Christmas? Everything just seems faster and earlier this year. We did some decorating (and cleaning) today with the Christmas tunes floating throughout the house. The stockings are hung and tomorrow we go to the Ochocos to cut down a tree. Those of you who don’t live in Oregon may be envious to know that for only a $5 permit you can cut down up to a 12 foot Christmas tree from the forest.

If I don’t make it back to this spot before Christmas, please slow down with me and enjoy the season. Celebrate the birth of Jesus in a new way this year. Begin a new tradition. Do something magical with your children. Play in the snow. Give from your heart. May the peace of Christ be with you.

Thank You for my dishes.


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Another piece of Dansk Concerto Allegro Blue went down tonight. My husband and I have wagered that perhaps not one piece will be left by the time the kids are grown. It was a wedding gift, nearly all of which was given to us by the late, great John E. Jaqua. So, it’s doubly sentimental.

Will my grown-up children catch a glimpse somewhere of our special Dansk and remember a warm, full table of family and love? I have no memories of a special tableware, because we had none that I recall, just a bit of this and that. I want my kids to have memories. They already know how I feel about our dishes, given my constant, “be careful, it was a wedding gift!” But I believe the less I say, the better. Just serve up good meals on the Allegro Blue, that’s all I need to do.

A Different Harvest


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I was to be writing about the harvest this month. I was lulled out of vigilant garden care by a late warm spell, and then, bam, it froze and died. All lost.

There are harvests of others kinds to ease the pain. I’m busy reaping the fruit of childhood. Raising kids is a continual and concurrent sowing and harvesting. Today I both collect the joy of children who know how to be silly, innocent little ones who at nearly ‘tweenhood still bless me with sweet simplicity, and also sow the seeds of self-control. Someone else will reap that one some day. I harvested a budding intellect in one child today, a seed which was sown beginning at birth in the countless hours of reading, playing, exploring with. Sowing and reaping, like my garden that I’ll soon start again, is a forever process.

When your daughter finds a baby jackrabbit


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The dog brought a baby jackrabbit to our lawn. Miraculously unharmed, the small gray creature with eyes wide open was a gift to my 9 year old animal loving daughter. She has wanted to raise a baby rabbit for years, and this appeared to be the genie in the magic bottle that answered her deepest wish. Appearances can be deceiving and wishes can be answered in other ways.

baby wild jackrabbit with JJ

I learned several years ago when same dog unearthed a wild jackrabbit nest that it’s never recommended and nearly impossible to raise wild rabbits on your own, not to mention that it’s illegal to possess Oregon wildlife without the proper state and federal permits. The survival rate is miniscule. I had foolishly and greenhornedly gathered up two of the babies and brought them home, only to have them cry all night, and then I wanted to cry when I researched online and discovered that I was now party to the likely demise of the sweet bunnies. I got up before dawn the next morning and returned the babies to the very spot beneath the junipers where I found them, following the instructions I had read, and believing that, as stated, the momma would find them even though she had obviously moved her nest elsewhere by this time.

Having learned this lesson, I knew JJ couldn’t keep the baby jackrabbit that our dog was so pleased to deliver. I let her hold the baby, and little sister JoJo gave it some love too, as I reminded them of the literature that clearly counseled the return of the jackrabbit to its nest. The problem was, we had no way of knowing where in the midst of the hundred acre wood the nest could be.

JoJo with wild bunny

These are the beautiful moments of our lives. There is something precious and priceless about loving a wild thing that must be let go, and making that decision on your own.

The children decided upon a location for the return, an area of junipers where the dog had been recently spotted. JJ and JoJo prepared a safehouse for the newly orphaned bunny who would hopefully soon have a reunion with a mother who would be calling her baby for a midnight feeding. A careful hole lined with soft grasses, some twigs meticulously set across the top of the child-made nest, and some tender goodbyes and goodlucks were the scene.

the bunny nest

goodbye sweet bunny

Goodbye, wild bunny who brought a thrill of delight and a living nature lesson to my children.

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Newborn kittens over here!


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There is nothing better! Newborn kittens, and children who got to watch the miracle happen! Five sweet little noses at mama’s belly, the awesomeness of new life.

Streak with her babies

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My High Desert Wildflower Tour


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Spring in Central Oregon has been wet and wonderful! Yes, I felt like I was back in Eugene, but for desert dwellers, we can’t complain about the rain. It’s produced some lovely wildflowers on my property, some of which I’ve never seen before.

Here is a photo tour, and I hope to update this post with all the names of all these specimens, but for now, please enjoy the beauty. Over the next week, I’ll be working with the kids on creating a nature journal with the proper designations for each flower. I don’t have in hand a Central Oregon Wildflower book, but I’ll pick one up tomorrow.

First up, this pretty long-stemmed flower was discovered by my daughter growing amongst the sage.

purple in sage

This gorgeous lavender colored wildflower appeared in a few different locations, and has a short blooming season. I believe it’s called a “phacelia,” and it almost seems to glow.

phacelia

Next, I almost stepped on this miniature deep purple-petaled beauty. It’s called a monkeyflower. It was all by itself, I believe the only one I saw. Barely a stem, it seemed to have sprouted straight from the grains of sand.
violet in the ground

Another low-growing flower called Bitter-Root was discovered near some volcanic rock. This specimen was confined to a small area, and only grew next to the moss-covered stones. It’s the closest thing to a desert rose on my property. There were both white and pinkish varieties. Traditionally the roots were peeled, then cooked and eaten, or dried for future use by the natives.
my desert rose

This was an interesting white daisy, with only three distinct petals at this point. Isn’t it pretty? It might be a blackfoot daisy. I wish there were enough to pick a bouquet and place on my kitchen table, but as with all the wildflowers here in my desert, they show up as a rarity with a bountiful rain, so I leave them where I find them. We go out for hikes nearly every day, so I do get to enjoy them while they last!
white daisy

I almost missed this next bunch of pink blooms with yellow centers, but luckily I had my children’s eyes. Lower to the ground – perhaps this is why they seem to uncover more than I do? These are Mohave Asters.
bunch of blooms

Ah, I loved this next one before I found out what it was, the first wildflower I saw this spring! The tall blades it grows within, the puffy oblong yellow cluster of blooms, reminds me of a tiny version of the yuccas I grew up with in Arizona. But it’s HIGHLY POISONOUS! Yes, it’s called Death Camas, and for good reason. Beautiful to behold, deadly to ingest.
reminds-me-of-yucca flower

The final bunch of wildflowers I discovered were the brightest yellow delicate tassels near the edge of the cliff. These are called “Oregon sunshine” and it’s a terrifically happy flower! Each petal was like a spike, each flower beginning with arms reaching straight to heaven, then slowly opening as the day unfolds.
the bright yellows

I hope you enjoyed my Central Oregon wildflower tour. We are blessed with such beauty in our backyard.

“…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” Mt. 6:28.

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The Pixie Chicks and other signs of spring


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I call these these the Pixie Chicks:

Pixie feeds the chickens
This photo is from a few weeks ago when we stopped at my neighbor Pixie’s house and the kids enjoyed her chickens. We are loving that spring is hopefully here to stay. It IS May, after all. But spring in Central Oregon is 70 degrees one day, hailing one inch stones the next.

Little L with chicks

Here are some more harbingers of spring around our place:

JJ catches another snake
The snakes are coming out from hiding, and my daughter is there to catch them.

long shadows on the grass
The grass is getting green and the long shadows of the afternoon are pleasant.

How is spring turning in your part of the world?

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I did something dangerous.


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I let my kids visit the neighbor’s little farm.

JJ with baby chick
JoJo with baby goat
Now guess what they want?

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Pogo: Toxic to the Tongue! A Tragic Tale of Little L


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Do you remember pogo sticks? As a little girl in the ’70s, this was one of my favorite past-times, jumping and balancing like a happy kangaroo. Besides my stilts, another old-school toy, the pogo stick was IT.

One of these spring-loaded poles showed up at my school, and the children lined up for their turn to bounce their way to a new school record. My five year old son was hopping like Tigger with the rest of them, until Wednesday.

Little L with snowballI was in the gym when I heard the scream, not unusual for Little L who is dramatic and feisty. But the blood that ensued and the look of fright in his eyes told me this was tragic, not trivial. By the time I got his mouth rinsed enough to see the damage, I discovered he bit clear through his tongue and his bottom lip, in a sort of double-whammy collision, and jarred several teeth out of place in the process. The laceration in his tongue was about an inch across, which is nearly the whole width of a child’s tongue. Seeing through someone’s tongue is very alarming.

The hurry to gather him and my other three children to race off to the doctor was a flurry of emotions, yet in those times of crisis, a mother is somehow able to hold it together. I had no thoughts other than keeping him from choking on the blood that kept coming, and trusted that he was in God’s hands.

Because when it rains it pours, of course my husband was out of town for this entire ordeal, and I also put the truck in a small ravine in my haste to get to the hospital in the neighboring city where surgery had been scheduled. Because I live in a rural area, the surgeon actually personally called to find out where I was. “I’ll be there as soon as I get out of the ditch,” I responded calmly.

As I was waiting for my neighbor to arrive with his John Deere to pull me out, I placed Little L on a nearby rock and comforted him with hugs and my coat wrapped about him to fight off the chilly spring wind. His jacket had, as might be expected, been left at school in the swirl of events.

In these times of calamity, however, as in most watershed moments, there are diamonds in the rough. The staff at St. Charles in Bend were amazing. The ENT surgeon was a father of four children, like me, and he and the nursing and anesthesiology folks just fell in love with Little L and made him feel so special that he said, despite his great pain, “I like it here.” In his new tongue-mangled lisp, he was so charming as he explained that he got hurt when he “wath pogo-ing.”

My dear friend Julia showed up to take my other three children to dinner and then home to tuck them into bed. Since Little L couldn’t eat or drink a drop as he waited for general anesthesia and surgery, I couldn’t very well eat or feed my kids in front of the ravenous little soul. She saved the day, and I must say, I had a few other friends call and offer to do the same. We are very blessed.

One of the most trying moments was an unexpected one, and the Lord sent me another friend to navigate this part. Have you ever witnessed a child coming out of anesthesia? Howling, bellowing, thrashing, wild-eyed — these descriptions barely do justice to the occasion. So, having Courtenay show up unexpectedly at the hospital was a Godsend. She brought me coffee, gathered popsicles and Children’s Motrin for Little L to aid in his recovery, and offered just the right conversation diversion I needed to not be overly consumed with worry over my baby boy.

All stitched up and wranglers back on, Little L was ready to go home. I had promised, however, to take him “somewhere special” and he was holding me to this pledge. Aaaah, it was nearly midnight and after a grueling day like this, I couldn’t, I just couldn’t do anything else. He wanted pancakes, his favorite comfort food.

He drifted off as we headed home, and finally, I was carrying him in the house in what seemed like a dream. I relieved Julia who had taken such good care of my other kids, and set about to get Little L ready for bed. I opened the refrigerator and discovered that God takes care of the most minute details. There were the leftovers of my older son’s dinner that Julia had treated them to. Pancakes. Hallelujah, Little L could have his comfort. Not that he could eat much with his tongue in such a shape, but a few tiny bits of soggy pancake were all he needed to feel satisfied.

The next morning was met with more moments of being cared for in crisis. The Country Wife took Little L for the day, my fellow teacher picked up the other three kids for school, classroom aides handled the morning classes, and I set about living “the day after.”

There is the pogo stick story and why they are toxic to the tongue. Truly, I still think pogo sticks are a classic toy, but we’ll be avoiding them for a long time. It’s been three days, and just so you know, Little L is out happily playing, though he talks really funny for now.

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Dear March – Come in!


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How are things in your part of the world? It may not feel like spring, but I know it’s coming, the calendar tells me so. And also the sky, the birds, the tiny signs of life I see poking through the ground.

Are you still covered with snow? Is the wind chilling you to the core? Take heart, it’s March! That means April and May are just around the corner. Are you thinking about what you’ll plant in your garden this year? I am, and I hope to add a few things to the mix this year. We started some vegetables last week, but here in Central Oregon, the rule of thumb on when to plant outdoors is “when the snow is gone from Black Butte,” which tends to be about June 1st!

Here is a lovely poem by Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest poets to ever write about nature, next to David. Enjoy these lines, and enjoy your March.

Dear March, Come in!
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

Dear March, Come in!

How glad I am!

I looked for you before.
Put down your hat —

You must have walked —

How out of breath you are!
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did you leave Nature well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell!

I got your letter, and the bird’s;

The maples never knew
That you were coming, — I declare,

How red their faces grew!

But March, forgive me —

And all those hills
You left for me to hue;

There was no purple suitable,

You took it all with you.

Who knocks?
That April!

Lock the door!

I will not be pursued!

He stayed away a year, to call

When I am occupied.
But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come,
That blame is just as dear as praise

And praise as mere as blame.

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Revisiting the Magic Window


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I wrote about my Magic Window last December, and guess what? I found it!

my magic window in the bedroom window
Actually, one of my kids found it in a box of my scant childhood mementos.

I wrote last December:

What was so magical about this double-paned case of shifting sand? For a little girl in a rather impoverished and remote desert region of the southwest, I could dream, carried away to nowhere in particular but someplace beautiful on every twist and flow of those magical grains. I longed to touch the sand that surely was silky smooth and would flow through my fingers like fairy dust.

Here it sits, right at home in my bedroom window, a magical melding of past and present. This was the first day of snow in Central Oregon, several weeks ago now.

Gazing out my windows at the crystalline air and bustling winterish activity, I had an epiphany. Something I can’t put into words, but a full circle was realized on this day.

My littlest made the first cheery snowball of the season.
Little L's snowball

His big brother followed suit in a grand way with his own ambitious snowball.
Big L and his snowball

Who knew my little Magic Window circa 1975 would be a foreshadowing of such delightful affairs? I thought of a passage from Paul’s writings in the New Testament:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Here’s to a continued revealing and clarifying of the “magic window” of our lives. May unspoken dreams come true. May dark days get brighter. May we soon be face to face.

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Mint tea and me


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Mint leaves in my potI grew mint in my garden this year, mostly because of the treasured childhood memories I have of the mint growing in our Arizona garden. I loved this mint as a little girl, and when I would get sent out to pick it for my mother’s tea, I would usually eat my way through the mint patch as I plucked some leaves for her. I must have had the freshest breath in Cochise County.

Last week, I made the first pot of my very own mint tea. I boiled some water for my mother and me. I lingered over the stove, breathing in the tingly aroma as the minty vapors cleansed the air. Later, as we snuggled down into our chairs with cups of mint tea, I asked my mom if she remembered our mint patch. Vaguely, she said. I never thought I’d see the day when the bed of mint was a “vague” memory of hers. Still, it was a wonderful, savored moment.

I have friends who are also caretakers of an aging parent. The wife’s father is the live-in parent, and in my case, it’s my mother. A few weeks ago, my friend’s father had a stroke, and now he needs assistance with feeding, toileting, bathing, everything, and he no longer speaks intelligibly. The fact that I could sit with my mother and enjoy a cup of mint tea and simple conversation is a great joy.

One of my sisters grows mint. It turns out my grandmother from Michigan grew mint, which led to my mother’s love of mint. This sister took some of Grandma’s mint and transplanted it into her own garden, and has moved it from house to house, wherever she goes. She lives in Ohio now. I’m wondering if there’s a way for her to ship some of her mint to me in Oregon? My mother’s Arizona mint patch is long gone, and Grandma’s is too (she’s been in Heaven for almost 20 years now). Am I crazy? Good grief, mint is mint. Oh well, perhaps I’ll be checking on getting me some of that old family mint.

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My Garden: A Short Photo Essay


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Our garden brought a smile to my face all summer long.

JoJo with the first carrot
Funny carrot shapes.

Little L with his heli-pea-copter
Edible toys (a pea pod turned helicopter).

Big L watering the garden
A great job for a child.

Little L finds the first strawberry
The joy of finding the first fruit.

The first bowl of lettuce from our garden.
Best of all, food for the table.

You may also enjoy these past posts from Diary of 1:
Gardening With Children
Fun With Seeds and Seedlings

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When I’m Five


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When I’m five, I can fly a kite,

Little L flies a kite

ride a bike,

Little L rides his new bike

shoot an arrow,

Little L plays Indian

frost a cake (and eat it, too),

Little L puts icing on his cake

make a wish and blow out the candles.

Little L blows out the candles

Happy Birthday, Little L!! You can do so many things when you are five!

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Boy and a River


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Little L by the Crooked River

We enjoyed the most wonderful morning at Smith Rock State Park a few days ago. There by 7:30 a.m. to avoid the scorching afternoon sun, we hiked, played, and splashed our way around to the backside of the mountain.

My children all had a fun time, especially the youngest. Big-eyed and four years old, Little L looked right out of Norman Rockwell’s sweet scenes of idyllic American childhood.

balancing on a rockBalancing on a rock, he peers into the shimmering Crooked River, on the verge of discovering his own reflection. He eventually collected a shell, a feather, and a crawdad leg.

Will he remember this moment? Perhaps when he’s a young man passing a river he will have a sense of joy that can’t be explained, and when he’s an old man he will recall this experience in nature with clarity, unable to resist the urge to skip a stone across the water.

discovering the river

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She’s a Biologist


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JJ showing lizard to bro and sis“Mommy, can I cut the lizard open?” JJ questioned very matter-of-factly. She had just come in from checking on her latest lizard, a big fat one she was sure was pregnant with dozens of eggs. She had felt little bumps inside the bulging belly of the western fence lizard, and this eight-year-old child with a bent for biology made the expectant diagnosis.

Sadly, she discovered this morning that her lizard was dead. She was curious. And maybe she could save the eggs. Frankly, I know nothing about lizard anatomy and may not know a lizard egg if I saw one. But I’m sure this girl would know. She has an instinctive nature when it comes to the study of living things. She loves animals, and her desire to cut open the lizard is inquisitive not cruel.

“That’s a-skusting!” cried the little brother. “Not while we’re making muffins!” asserted the little sister.

JJ brought me a paring knife. She’s a persistent girl, a trait that alternately drives us crazy and makes us proud. Am I ready for a dissection? Do I let her explore?

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Hello Summer


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JoJo says hello

Hello Summer! We’re done being sick and we are ready to enjoy this beautiful world. I’m listening to Little L read a book to himself, I’m feeling anticipation about the days ahead, I’m smelling the fresh garden dirt, and I’m seeing a clear blue sky out the window.

Little L with Tawny

Today, I need to accomplish: cleaning all the bathrooms, vacuuming the upstairs hall and guest room, washing about five loads of laundry, and supervising the kids’ chores. I have a visit from Elisabeth today, the gal who arranges the French Exchange Program. I’m also expecting a friend from out of town to stop by on her way through to Idaho.

What’s on your plate today? Many blessings to you as we head into a celebration of Independence this weekend!

Little of This and That: Train, Garden, France.


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Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there! I have a little of this and that to write about today.

TRAIN.
First, here’s one of my favorite pictures from my photofiles:

Mt. Emily Train engineer

A little train depot we pass nearly every day had a surprise for us one fall afternoon last season. The regular train was on vacation, and this beautiful steam powered locomotive, called the Mount Emily Shay #1, was there to greet us. Built in 1923, she worked for 30 years on a logging railroad in southern Oregon, then spent some time in West Virginia running tourists on the Cass Scenic Railroad. The “lockie” has since been retired to the Oregon Historical Society, which leases #1 to the City of Prineville Railway to occasionally pull its Crooked River Dinner Train.

There’s the facts, and for you train lovers, you will appreciate the history. My kids appreciated the power and beauty up close.

The Kids and Mt. Emily Shay #1

GARDEN.
I spent yesterday in the garden with the kids at my side. It was a treasured time. After moving my plants in and out of the house for weeks, and waiting for the last frost to come and go, I decided the time was perfect for their new home. Turned out it was a day late. The night before, I left the plants in the garage. There was a mouse. It ate the tops off the cucumbers. The peas were munched. The pumpkins were stubs.

I transplanted what I could into the garden, and reseeded almost everything. I may not have enough days to make it to harvest before a fall frost, but I’m taking my chances. No matter the outcome, I love working with my kids in the garden.

My husband shared my pain over those lost seedling leaves. He found a Maine Coon Cat on Craigslist. Apparently this enormous (seriously, it’s like a dog) feline mouser is the thing to have, and there’s a free one in Springfield, Oregon. To further protect against critters, he’s out right now putting boards around the bottoms of the garden, and I’ll be joining him shortly to help place rocks around the garden base.

FRANCE.
I’m so excited to be hosting another French Exchange Student. Helen comes in July. Do you remember when we hosted Elise? My kids still talk about our time with her, and it’s an enriching experience that I highly recommend for every family. So, as we prepared for Elise, we are now preparing for Helen.

Getting her room cleared out is the number one priority. It currently holds several dozen boxes of …. stuff. I love having a pressing reason to get things cleaned up! I mean it.

After having Elise as our guest, I also realized that the French have a certain expectation about food. Like, it should be prepared at home, not acquired at the drive-up window or in a frozen cardboard box. So, I need to get my menu in order.

Finally, language lessons are always fun for me, so the kids and I will spend some more time with French lessons. But that’s not a huge concern, since I already figured out with Elise that these Europeans nearly always speak English better than we will ever speak their language.

As far as activities, we just plan on living our normal life. The expectation of this particular exchange group is to just have an immersion experience with an American family as they go about their day. I will certainly show her some highlights of Central Oregon, but I have no plans beyond that.

Do you want to host a French exchange student? If you live in Central Oregon, get ahold of me right away, because there are still a few students needing to be placed here immediately.

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Memorial Day: taking a minute to write


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Life has been incredibly busy, but I wanted to take a minute and record the days.

Memorial Day weekend has been wonderful. Family came to visit from the valley, and my kids enjoyed some precious times with their cousins and grandma and uncle. Lots of dirt and many baths later, we said our goodbyes.

Today, I took the kids for a bike ride down the gravel drive and onto an old BLM road. We stopped to pick cattails and JJ found a 1966 quarter half-hidden on the dusty trail. Further down, we came upon an old campsite of some former cowboys or pioneers – actually, that is the children’s hope, because it was likely just a place where many decades ago, people dumped their trash.

Here are a few photos I’d like to share:

Riley on watch
Our dog, Riley, is turning out to be an extraordinary guard. He finally found the job he needed, being a cattle dog with no cattle to herd. The jackrabbits and the deer keep him busy. And the four children. Except for his dangerous habits of chasing cars, biting tires, and jumping on people, he’s mellowing out nicely and we look forward to many years with him at the ranch.

evening sky
This view out the kitchen to the east is lovely, especially with the late afternoon long shadows. You can see Riley on the move here, enjoying some playtime.

Dad and big L building fence
I mentioned my husband building a garden structure a few weeks ago. I found this photo of him and Big L working together to string the wire around the juniper trunks he used for posts. We are getting a vision for this place and look forward to a good harvest. I spent much of yesterday preparing my garden beds for the vegetable starts that are still in my mud room. According to the OSU gardening calendar, I can plant outdoors this week or next. Finally!

JoJo and Little L rock climbing
Like all my children, JoJo and Little L love to explore. This rock down the cliff at the end of our property provides a scenic lookout. I remember climbing in the mountains near my own home as a child, and those are probably my fondest childhood memories. There were legends abounding about the grave of Chief Cochise being somewhere in these Apache mountains where I grew up, and that just added to the excitement of every childhood hike and mountain climbing excursion.

Cochise died after a long illness on June 8, 1874. Tom Jeffords was at his side near the end, and witnessed his interment in a crevice in the rocks of the Dragoon Mountains, near Cochise Stronghold, Arizona. Only his band and Tom Jeffords knew the site. They took this knowledge to their own graves, telling no one of the place where Cochise had been buried. (from findagrave.com)

I think my children will have their own fanciful notions about this land where we now live, and I hope they share these impressions with me as they grow up.

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Fun with Seeds and Seedlings


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vegetable startsWe are watching the vegetable starts every day, the children with intense wonder at the new growth, me with a mix of hope and apprehension– will we succeed in this gardening adventure? The sunflower in this photo has been the subject of the greatest amazement, as my son was standing right in front of it when the shell of the seed popped right off the plant as the seedling stretched its tender leaflets in a show of force.

All of these cups of seed and soil are sitting in our sunny mud room, busily sprouting in preparation for the big move to the outdoor garden after the last frost. Whether we will time the transition correctly, have the proper soil amendments, possess a well fortified fence to keep out the ever encroaching deer and jackrabbits, and be left with sufficient growing time for full maturation of the vegetables, all remains to be seen. Central Oregon is not a gardening paradise and there are odds to overcome, but it’s not impossible (even though my neighbor says it is). This is our beginning.

our garden fence
My husband recently built me a garden area. Can you make it out in this picture? I came home from a weekend away, and he and the kids made me close my eyes and led me out the back door to this sight that thrilled me. He had limbed up enough Juniper trees that were laying around the property, set them in post holes with cement left over from our building project, and only had to buy the wire fencing.

He still needs to build the gate, secure the bottom with boards, and string some baling wire at the top to deter the deer which can easily jump a 6 foot fence. We also have to bring in a ton of compost and nutrient rich soil, but I can see the finished product, and it’s beautiful. I’m sure you are getting the picture that gardening can be a lot of hard work, but it’s best to know the challenges before you begin. For a no-nonsense look at this from someone who has years more experience than I, read The Joys and Trials of Caring for your Seedlings.

Here are some tips on gardening in Central Oregon from the Oregon State Extension Service:

Although it may not be a gardening paradise, central and eastern Oregon is more than a wide expanse of high desert. Successful vegetable and fruit gardening is possible east of the Cascades if you take into account the area’s special and widely varying climate and soil characteristics.

The growing season may be as short as 80 to 90 days in central Oregon at elevations above 3,500 feet. In some of the lower elevations and river valleys, growing seasons may exceed 130 days.

Also, large fluctuations in daytime and nighttime temperatures, often as much as 40-45°F, affect vegetable and fruit production. Cool nights reduce the chances of successfully growing vegetables that like warm nights, such as lima beans and eggplants. (See story on growing warm-season crops in cool-season area.)

Soil types

Soil types in central and eastern Oregon vary widely. Light-textured soils, low in organic matter, nutrient content, and water-holding capacity, are found in parts of central Oregon and the eastern Columbia Basin area. These soils may require frequent applications of fertilizer and water. At the other extreme are the heavy soils high in soluble salts (which can create an alkalinity problem) found in many eastern Oregon areas.

Added organic matter such as manure or compost generally is beneficial for most central and eastern Oregon soils. (See story on improving soil.) Specific information for each area is available from county offices of the OSU Extension Service or from local garden centers.

Choosing crops

Concentrate on those vegetables adapted to your particular area. Avoid planting vegetables that require special, intense, or improved growing conditions. Root crops (e.g., potatoes, carrots, and beets) and cold-tolerant crops (e.g., cabbage, chard, leaf lettuce, and kohlrabi) do well in high-elevation gardens.

Short-season vegetable varieties offer the best chance of success. For example, cool nights during the growing season may cause a 65-day tomato to require 75 to 80 days or more to mature.

Planting dates

Planting dates for high-elevation, short-season areas generally lag behind those in other parts of the state. In high areas, gardens usually are planted from mid-May, for cold-tolerant plants, to mid-June. Later plantings often fail to mature before fall frosts. See the story on planting guidelines for suggested planting dates.

Use plant protection devices, such as row covers, hotcaps, and Walls-o-Water, to extend the growing season for vegetables requiring longer periods to mature.

Now, on to some fun seed activities to do with children. These three ideas are from The Family Game Book (1967, Doubleday-out of print). I think these are appropriate projects for all elementary grades. I just planted vegetable starters with my sixth graders (as well as my own children), and from ages 4 through 12, they all were totally engaged. One of my sixth grade students called me at home a few nights ago just to tell me how beautiful her new plants were!

1. See how seeds actually grow.

When a seed is buried in the ground, you can’t see exactly what is happening to it. Here is a simple experiment you can perform to watch the seed develop into a little plant.

Get a sheet of clean blotting paper or a small sponge. Put the paper or sponge in a drinking glass so that it is pressing against one side of the glass. Fill the other side of the glass with gravel or sand. This should press the blotting paper or sponge tightly against the glass.

Now get some fast-growing seeds like lima beans. Force them between the blotting paper and the glass. They should be pressing tightly against the glass so that you can see them through the glass. If the seeds don’t stay in place, you do not have enough sand or gravel in your glass, as its purpose is to keep the seeds in place.

Keep the blotting paper or sponge moist. In a few days you will see the seeds sprout roots. These are called root hairs. They help absorb food for the plant. After the roots become longer, carefully transfer your seeds to a dirt-filled flowerpot or even the garden–if it is warm enough. You will have a little bean plant. Just think how much you will know about this particular little plant!

2. How strong are seeds?

A rock is broken in two, and a healthy tree is growing in the split. Have you ever seen such a sight–a tree growing in a rock?

Perhaps you have seen a sidewalk with a crack in it, and a plant growing through it. Chances are that the seed of the plant split the sidewalk. It’s hard to believe, but here’s an experiment to prove that seeds can really exert great force.

Get a small flat bottle. An empty medicine bottle will do. Pack the bottle right up to the very top with dried beans, for beans are really seeds. Get a piece of cloth and tie it over the top of the bottle in place of the cap. Stand the bottle upside down in a glass partly filled with water.

Watch your bean bottle from time to time, and in a day or so you will discover that the bottle has burst. The beans soak up all the water and become swollen. As they swell they push against the walls of the bottle, and when they push hard enough the bottle bursts.

That is what happened to the rock and the sidewalk. Do you believe it now?

3. How important are the plant’s first leaves?

By now you have had some experience with plants. Have you noticed that all the different kinds of seeds you planted (flower and vegetable) start growing with the same kind of leaves? They all have what look like two thick leaves that dry up and fall off when the seedling develops other leaves. Have you ever wondered what these first leaves do?

A little experiment will answer this question. Plant three quick-growing seeds, such as bean or cucumber seeds, in a flowerpot. Water them and one day you will notice you have three little plants, all with the same two first leaves, which are called cotyledons.

Now, leave one seedling exactly as it is. From the second seedling, cut off one leaf. From the third, cut off both leaves. Continue to take care of your plants and you will discover something interesting. The seedling from which you cut off both leaves will be very small. The seedling with one leaf cut off will be a little larger. The seedling you did not touch will be the largest and healthiest.

From this experiment you can gather that the cotyledons are storehouses for the young plant and should fall off only when the plant is strong enough to get nourishment by itself. Losing first leaves too soon hampers a plant’s growth.

I hope you enjoy your seeds and seedlings this spring! Do your homework on best growing practices for your region, and don’t forget to have fun with the kids along the way. There are so many life lessons and spiritual truths to be learned from planting a garden.

Related post: Gardening With Children

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Swimming in April?


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I thought I was celebrating spring, not summer. But I have brave kids.

Water play in April

Central Oregon, April 5, 4:00 p.m., 66 degrees. I’m wearing a sweater. But blue sky, bright sun, and no wind all make for swimming in April, at least for these country kids.
JJ in the pool!It innocently began with chasing jackrabbits, then some water-play, soon followed by a child streaking in to ask for a cork to plug the pool and fill it. Being busy with paperwork, and seeing no harm, I acquiesced. I figured they’d be far too cold once the water started flowing and it would come to an abrupt end, but no, the splashing and shrieks of delight went on for at least an hour.

I love my daring young girls and boys!

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It is for freedom we’ve been set free


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JoJo down the drive

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galations 5:1

This is a verse that came my way today from two different sources. I don’t know what it means to you, but I wanted to share it with you. Part of it for me means being FREE and available for all God has for me. No eye has seen or mind can comprehend what God has prepared for those who love Him. And none of it is fully available when we are not free. So, I’ll be meditating on what this means for me and how I can obtain further freedom…from fear, exhaustion, unbelief, and anything else that I struggle with.

That’s my little JoJo in the photo exercising her freedom! Without a care and full of the joy of living, she pedals into the wind like a newly released balloon reaching for the skies.

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boy and shovel


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Little L and the shovels

A little boy must have a shovel or two to be truly happy, I think! What is it about digging that brings such satisfaction and sense of adventure?

Will I find a buried treasure? A forgotten city?
I must dig and dig, and when I’m done at the very least I’ll have a hideaway.

Have you noticed a fascination with upturning the earth in your own children? When you were a child, did you love to dig? Is it a child’s version of going out west or shooting to the moon, or any other unknown horizon to be explored?

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Happy 80th, Mom


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Mom and her grandkidsMy mother is now officially an octogenarian. I pray the 80s will bring her peace, grace, beauty, and good health.

Here she is making her way down our driveway with a few of the kids this week, who love to go for walks with Grandma. Or be walked, as you can see a blue leash dangling by LIttle L’s legs, which he had attached to his belt loop for Grandma to “walk him.” She now limits herself to the long driveway for fear of getting lost in the forest. I must say, I do feel quite proud that our sometimes scraggly junipers qualify as a forest.

This poem she wrote over 50 years ago fits this scene and the future in heaven she looks forward to:

AN OLD FAMILIAR STREET

Will I suddenly find myself walking
Down an old familiar street,
That once had something lacking
But now is quite complete?

Will heaven be the earth again,
But me a different man–
With eyes to see things hidden now,
With wings to carry out a plan?

Will flowers be even sweeter then?
The wind at my command?
Will secrets fill me full of glee
That now I could not stand?

Will that day surely come
With its enchanting feat
When I’ll walk with distant friends
Down an old familiar street?

I don’t have any profound thoughts to write this morning in honor of my mother’s 80th birthday, just a few random memories from childhood:

She read to us often, and not the usual children’s stories, just whatever she happened to be reading. She loved books about the saints, Christian missionaries, animal stories, the Bible, biographies…

She planted a mint patch and would send us kids to pick mint for her tea. We’d eat some leaves along the way.

The Arbor was a special place to be. She built, along with my dad, a little arbor with a table and benches inside. Crawling up every side of the arbor were climbing vines of her favorite kind, of which I cannot remember the names but were special to her.

I remember discovering a nest of baby birds in the arbor – they loved it there, too.

For a year or two, my mom hosted a small poetry club in the arbor for my sister and me and our neighbor friends (mostly 6-10 year olds), and called it the Little Rhymers. I still have the poetry book she made for our club with its hand-stitched cover, filled with the endearing poetry of our little hands.

Her Boston Baked Bread was one of my favorites, as well as her homemade ice cream.

She was a most creative soul and I never realized the blessing of this until much later in life.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Poet’s Cat


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Tawny napping

A Poet’s Cat, sedate and grave
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
- – - William Cowper

Our cat, Tawny is fond of napping, as most cats are. He’s dozing in what I like to call the townhouse – his place on top, the dog in the bottom apartment. My husband and son built this cozy accommodation just before winter, and it was uncanny how each animal instinctively knew where his place was.

our animal townhouseI tried to shoo Riley into his house so I could have the perfect picture, but he would have none of it. It’s usually the cat who won’t cooperate with the camera, but today Tawny was quite obliging.

By the way, that is bits of a foam pad in the back of the dog house, not “doo doo” as my 5 year old said when she saw this picture. Riley tears out anything of comfort we try to place on the floor, whether it’s a blanket, a heated pad, or foam.

Where do your animals like to sleep or sit?

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When Kids Explore: The Black Feather


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Little L with his featherLittle L was so delighted to find a feather during our last hike about the property. Never mind we find them all the time, each new discovery still holds a bit of magic.

Here’s a little poem I wrote for him:

The Black Feather
Today I went out to explore
I found a feather on the forest floor
I had the urge to search for more
Creation has unlocked a door. 

Enjoy your day exploring and investigating your world! We’re off for another hike…

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A favorite place


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Big L perched on a rock

Big L found a favorite perch. From here, he had a bird’s eye view of the valley and the horizon beyond. Upon his rocky seat, with his hand steadied by the old weathered fence post, my son felt like king of the hill.

I wondered what tales the worn, lichen and moss covered fence could tell. Who owned the cattle it once held in? What hands pounded the stakes? Why did these people move on? Where did they go from here?

Do you have a favorite place to retreat to when you need to clear your mind or when you long for solitude?

Overlooking the Valley


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Overlooking the valley last week
Out hiking a few weeks ago. Near the east edge of our property is a stunning view of the valley below.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

What element of God’s creation speaks to you today?

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The Thaw


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Tawny and Riley during the thaw
The air warms, the snow melts, and the animals rediscover the earth. The thaw is a messy thing, leaving puddles of mud outside our door, and as icicles drop with a crack, it creates a long row of untidy divots in the ground along the roof line.

But in the mess of the thaw, the cat prepares to pounce as he hasn’t since the thick blanket of snow gave him nothing to leap for, and the dog perks his ears and sniffs the wind as fresh scents are unearthed. And my own heart and senses are renewed after the thaw. What hope!

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

December View


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Big L and the dog on a snowy day

Big L out front today, with the dog joining in the fun.

At this moment, there is nothing quite so lovely as living trees flocked with fresh snow, a child building a snow fort among them, and a blue sky above to offer winter cheer to the scene below.

Simple Woman: November 24


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simple-woman-daybook-large

For Today...Monday, November 24, 2008

Outside my window…the dark of early morning, but day will break within the hour. I see the bold outline of Juniper trees against the rising sky which now displays several horizontal streaks of the palest pink clouds, changing every second, it seems.

I am thinking…why can’t I get more done? I really, really need to prioritize my time and focus.

From the learning rooms…Big L wants to be a candle-maker. Ever since Friday, when the kids made candles at school, he goes around in the evening turning off lights and walking around with his small lit candle.

I am thankful for…very naturally, my children and husband and home and land. A new friend, good coffee, a surprise thank-you letter and chocolate from my students at school.

From the kitchen…my husband making coffee and getting breakfast for the kids.

I am wearing…a long sleeved white shirt, brown vest, jeans, socks.

I am reading…The book of Mark. The Call of the Wild and The Egypt Game with my students.

I am hoping…for a safe and pleasant trip on Thanksgiving as we visit family.

I am creating…(trying my best to create) a peaceful and happy home full of the joy of the Lord.

I am hearing…JoJo singing to herself/talking to herself as she sits at my feet in her fuzzy robe, flipping through a coloring book.

Around the house…the one room full of boxes from our move–I must tackle this!! I need to return a movie to a friend and can’t find it! It’s in there somewhere.

One of my favorite things…Sunday mornings talking about the Lord with my family. Teaching our children. Walking about our property searching for any interesting thing–bones, feathers, rocks, nests.

A few plans for the rest of the week…getting caught up with our business and ordering the product we need for Christmas sales.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…(me at the ranch…my daughter took the picture, she’s still learning…)

Jen at the ranch

Hosted by the Simple Woman.

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Sleepover with an 84 year old friend


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“Jane is spending the night,” I announced to my kids yesterday. From the wild whoops of joy that followed and the “happy dance” of my five year old, no one would guess that Jane was not a favorite classmate, but an octogenarian.

Part I of the story of Jane is here, and now I’ll give you a bit of Part II.

Jane with Little L at breakfast

This lovely sun-drenched November morning found Jane and Little L in their jammies at the breakfast table. “Gram- I mean, Jane,” began Little L, in the usual way of my children, who, as many young children, mistake any dear older person in their life for a grandparent, “do you want to play a game?”

It’s been over four years since we met Jane, and as I told you in Part I, she was the neighbor whom I sought out as a friend for my mom. It turns out that Jane is a friend to our whole family, and especially to me. I began writing Part I when Jane was beginning chemotherapy for her breast cancer. I had no sense of whether she’d make it or not, and wanted some kind of record of her place in our lives.

Over the course of the year of her cancer, I drove Jane to countless doctor visits and treatment sessions. Thankfully, she had a cheerful-spirited oncologist who didn’t mind my four young children in tow, and a time or two he even proudly held my baby (Little L). It was a year of vacuuming her floor, bringing her groceries, and hopefully modeling for my children how (and why) to care for our elders.

At many points, I was sure Jane would die, and dreaded having to call her only son in Canada. What would I say to him? The chemotherapy made her so sick she was unable to even walk. Jane is a feisty old lady, however, and quit her chemotherapy treatments halfway through, refused radiation, and took her chances. Her doctor was baffled and a bit angry with her – someone with cancer in her lymph nodes shouldn’t take chances.

By the grace of the Almighty God, Jane survived, and as we enjoyed our coffee this morning, I pondered how she has developed a relationship with all the generations in my household – from my children, to my husband and me, to my mother. We moved to the country and don’t get to see her as much as we did when she was a few houses away, but I believe we’ve managed to cement a lifelong connection.

Jane will be 84 in a few weeks, and we were having an early celebration. What an amazing, divine appointment for us to have met, to help her on this journey. And the blessing on my children I consider to be immense. How many four, five, or nine year-olds cherish an “old lady” the way they do? I know I didn’t when I was young. The kids suckered Jane into games of Sorry, Hi-Ho Cheerio, and Monopoly by the time she left.

And Jane is still my mom’s only friend here. I tenderly watched them chatting on the couch last night. “When I was in Niagara Falls,” Jane began, relating a story from her childhood. “My dad was from Buffalo,” my mom interjected, “I don’t think that’s too far from there.” “Thirty-five miles,” Jane replied.

It was a slumber party that didn’t include staying up late or pillow fights. Our twice-widowed guest needed help walking up the stairs and a gentle reminder of where the bathroom was. But I will tell you that a sleep-over with an 84 year old is a marvelous thing, a mix of fading memory and wisdom woven into meaningless details.

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68th Carnival of Homesteading – the putting up wood edition


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thcWelcome to the 68th Carnival of Homesteading. It’s that time of year…fall is here with a chill in the air, and winter stands at the door. We’ve been putting up wood. There is a comforting warmth of a wood fire that can’t be matched, and I’m so pleased we have this opportunity in our home. Dad and the kids have been busy.

First, there are the logs:
downed trees

The axe…
the ax

And the beautiful pile, a nice beginning, stacked by my nine-year-old son…
the wood pile

Here are the wonderful entries for this week:
From the Sojourner, My Kids thought I was crazy…a dog food bag made into a tote bag. How fun and cool…but will all the neighborhood dogs be following her around?

Fowl Visions brings us Backyard Plans for Wild Bird Feeding and Bird Watching…welcome to some great bird watching in Clay County, Florida!

Hobby Lawn Care tells us Why Is Proper Lawn Clipping Height So Important? Hint – it’s not “as short as possible.”

Make it From Scratch prepares Pumpkin Pie – my absolute favorite! It’s the homemade crust that makes it extra special.

Stop the Ride has some Soil Surprises…thankfully, this post has nothing to do with diapers or laundry.

Little House in the Suburbs teaches us about Clipping Chicken Wings…for chicks who escape.

From the lighter side, we have German Fresh Apple Bread – mmmm, apple bread from any country is delicious.

A Pondering Heart says I Nominate…it’s time for the homeschool blog awards.

It’s a Learning Experience asks What’s On the Menu? This is for a family of eleven, for a whole week…wow.

From Vermont’s Northland Journal, I found this lovely little story about the warmth of a woodstove. Here is an excerpt I enjoyed:

Townsfolk and neighbors not only judged a man by the color of his chimney smoke, the shape and size of his woodpile were also scrutinized. A woodpile, besides being straight and sturdy, needed to be piled so the wood would cure and keep, while at the same time look like a picture. There was an art to putting up a good woodpile.

Next week’s Carnival of Homesteading will be hosted by Oak Hill Homestead. You can submit your homesteading blog posts here by next Sunday, 9 p.m. EST.

Cat up a Tree


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Cat up a juniper tree

A few weeks ago, I found Tawny high up in a tree, meowing rather pleadingly. After spending an hour finding a ladder tall enough to reach the cat, coaxing him with soothing kitty calls and finally food, I rescued the feline. The cat could starve or freeze to death, trapped up here indefinitely, I had thought.

Later that evening, when my husband returned from errands with the kids and I related to them the cat story, my 9-year-old son laughed, “Mom, Tawny always climbs up there and gets back down by himself!” Oh.

*****

Recent blog carnivals:
Carnival of Education
Carnival of Family Life
Christian Carnival
Carnival of Homesteading

Up next: Carnival of Homesteading, here at Diary of 1, on Monday, Oct. 20. Submit HERE by Sunday, 9 p.m. EST.

October Exploring


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unknown rust colored spiderOur first October hike around the property began with a surprise greeting from this rust-colored fast-crawling spider. If the image is fuzzy, it’s because my hand was shaking a bit as I took the photograph. I’m not a big arachnid fan, however, I’m always fascinated with a new species, especially if it’s going to be my neighbor, and especially if it’s a potentially venomous creature.

Can anybody make this out? No further pictures available, as the elder daughter poked it with a stick, immediately followed by the dog having it for snack.

new juniperJJ discovered a new juniper, we think. You need to look closely, as the earthy colors blend into the ground. Seeing that the sapling is right next to a mature juniper, and seeing that junipers are the only naturally occurring tree on the entire property, it’s safe to say the kids made a good assessment.

An interesting tidbit on juniper berries:

Juniper berries have long been used as medicine by many cultures. Juniper berries act as a strong urinary tract disinfectant if consumed and were used by American Indians as a herbal remedy for urinary tract infections. Western tribes combined the berries of juniperus communis with Berberis root bark in a herbal tea to treat diabetes. Clinical studies have verified the effectiveness of this treatment in insulin-dependent diabetes. Compounds in these plants when combined and ingested have been shown to trigger insulin production in the body’s fat cells, as well as stabilize blood sugar levels. Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.

I love this lone juniper tree inclining over the cliff at the east end of our property. It seems to grow straight out of the rocks, showing the strength and hardiness of this ancient evergreen.
juniper on the cliff

hole in the rockJust beside this last juniper, I discovered a moss covered rock, its variegated colors indicating countless seasons of moss-growing, which I hadn’t observed before–not that unusual being that there’s thousands of rocks on this land. But I never noticed the handy little hole, and the smaller rock sitting in there, just ideal for pounding corn or something. We know the Northern Paiute Indians inhabited this land before us, and I I can’t help but wonder, has this been there since then?

rock grinder?

Tawny in a rock holeTawny was out for his first explore to the edge of the cliff, and left the children screeching in terror and delight with his kittenish antics of racing up trees and scampering down rock crevices. Just when they were certain he was down to eight lives and lost over the precipice, he would meow his way calmly back to the family.

A fresh rain left this exhilarating scent in the air, and the cat and dog both seemed to understand that this was the perfect October day. Other than an occasional stray onto a neighboring property, the animals were fabulous scouting companions.

The three explorersThese three explorers likewise recognized an ideal day, and with Mom armed with bags for the hunt, we gathered moss, owl pellets, bones, feathers, and chips of obsidian (more Paiute relics) unearthed by the recent downpour. Analyzing the artifacts later will add to the experience. Little L would squeal with glee whenever he found a complete little rodent skull–”Look, Mama, it’s got teeth!” And a particularly large chunk of obsidian found by JJ was met with “it looks just like a canoe!”

One of my young adventurers sums up our October Exploring perfectly:
JoJo loves to explore!

Pure fun. What do you or your children enjoy doing this time of year? And tell me, what do you think of that hole in the boulder and the small rock sitting in there?

The Home Fire’s A-Going


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“There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Ancient Roman Writer and Statesman, 106 BC – 43 BC.

our new fireplace

I’m totally delighting in this lovely fire my husband built tonight. The woodbox is full and the house is warm! We are halfway moved into our new house, and hope to have the move completed within a few weeks.

It’s been a long time since I sat in front of a wood fire in my own home. The rented house we’ve been living in for the past two years didn’t have a fireplace; the house we owned for the two years before that had a “fake” natural gas fireplace; our home for the five years prior to that possessed a wood fireplace with a nasty habit of filling the house with smoke every time we dared use it.

Downed juniper trees scatter the property, the victims of our building project. Don’t cry for them, they’re keeping my hearth warm. I love the smell of juniper; we just can’t invite Chuck and Connie over when we’re burning juniper, he’ll turn beet red and break out in hives or something. He’ll have to bring his own pine logs. The rest of you, come in and sit a spell and let us tell you a tale of God’s goodness and merciful provision.

We are not finished, quite. Almost, but not quite. We are trusting God for the working out of some final important pieces, and wouldn’t you know, dear Christian, when that last lap of the marathon is about to kill you, that famous second wind can sustain you, the powerful wind of the comforting, helping Holy Spirit. Someday I’ll get to tell you the story of a little girl who grew up in a dirt-floored shack and now sits before the warm hearth of a mansion, the gift of her Father who loves her. Until then, keep the home fires burning. Blessings.

Frugal Field Trips


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Local field trips for children are lurking around every corner, even in some everyday places if you recognize the opportunity. Every town will have its own unique chances for family excursions, but here are a few around my Central Oregon town for the budget-minded.

The Greenhouse
I needed to buy some houseplants that would survive in very low light, so an outing to the greenhouse turned into a field trip. The owner happened to be there, and was gracious enough to lead my four children through the aisles of hanging ivy and water fountains, all the while instructing us on the names of the various plants and the best methods of transplanting and when to do so. Annuals, perennials, vegetable plants, hanging baskets, herbs…he noted everything as we passed. The kids caught maybe half of what he breezed through, but what they surely caught was his love of plants!

JJ holding plantMany greenhouses offer organized field trips for school groups, and this one was no exception. While my group (my family) just walked in as customers to make a purchase, they were still very accessible and education-minded. It’s important to note that this was a small, locally owned nursery, and these are the best ones, in my opinion, to approach for an educational tour.

If, like me, you’re not looking to schedule a full-blown field trip, just try asking questions, and you’ll probably discover that the employees are fairly eager to pass on some knowledge, especially when you have children asking their own questions as well. You may want to take a few minutes before entering the greenhouse to prep your kids for the experience, and “plant” some questions in their heads to get them thinking, and encourage them to be inquisitive (but polite).

The Ranch
We happen to have some friends who raise Clydesdale horses, and this is where I would insert my recommendation to take advantage of friends like this! Not in a negative way, mind you, but if you have friends or family members who have a unique or unusual business, you don’t want to pass up that opportunity for your children to learn a thing or two.

Alisha giving kids a lesson on Clydesdales

So, our friend Alisha invited my family and a few others out for a “horse lesson,” as my daughter said. This daughter is my equine lover and longs for her own trusty steed. My girl was counting down the days until this trip, dutifully marking her calendar. I only wish the cowboy boots from Grandma had arrived before this trip–but it’s okay, the boots have seen plenty of action since. Alisha did a fantastic job of walking the kids through her stables and introducing the children to the various horsey things that seem to enchant young ones.

Little L feeding a ClydesdaleBefore the kids left, they had all helped to groom several horses, feed them, pick their hooves, ride around the corral, and choose their own horseshoe to take home.

I think this was the favorite field trip of the year. All the families involved were so thrilled to have this visit to the ranch. I know this isn’t a feasible option for many of you who don’t live in the country or know ranchers/farmers. But I’ll bet if you sat down and really thought hard, you’d come up with someone you know in an interesting field of work who just might welcome a few kids into their daily routine, and maybe even enjoy it as much as the kids.

The State Park
We live near a gorgeous state park, and it costs just $3.00 to park and hike for the day. This is a great option for a field trip that incorporates natural science, geology, and even art.

Smith Rock State ParkIf you go to this particular state park in the summer (Smith Rock in Terrebonne, Oregon), plan an early start to avoid heat stroke, and pack a picnic lunch and a sketch pad/pencil.

There is a perfect covered overlook with several large picnic tables which looks down on this breathtaking view you see here. I love this spot for the chance to have the kids sit and sketch the scenery and really notice the amazing rock formations and the gentle curves of the river.

Sometimes, I’ll have the kids stop and gather some leaves to look at later, but mostly it’s just a tremendous location that we never tire of.

Smith Rock cave exploring

The kids will of course discover caves and rabbit trails and rocks to climb. There are several large boulders they routinely climb up, nearly giving me a heart attack, but I forget what I was like as a child. The older I get, the more cautious I become and the more afraid of heights I get!

Smith Rock volcanic plaqueOne nice feature about most state parks are the plaques of geologic or historic information planted along the way. Don’t rush past these if you want to get the most out of your field trip. I usually have a different opinion about some of the geologic timelines given in the typical state park plaque, but what a great learning opportunity to discuss these issues.

My kids often ask as we drive by Smith Rock, “Mommy, how did that get there?” and I can remind them of the plaque we read, with the illustrations of the volcanic explosion, and it all comes back. My older son now stops to read the plaque aloud to the other children and plays tour guide.

Oh my, there are so many other wonderful little trips we make around town. I may have to do another post to tell you about the museums, the free concerts, the goat farms, and even how to turn a trip to the grocery store into a field trip. I spend very little money on these outings, and I mostly stay local, but I’m discovering that what makes a valuable experience for one’s family is an eager attitude about learning. The ability to spot a teachable moment paired with an inquisitive spirit will bring many frugal field trips to your front door.

What frugal field trips does your town offer?

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When sleeping on the living room floor felt like camping


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The plan was to pitch the tent in the yard, gaze at the stars, enjoy a campfire, roast some hotdogs and marshmallows, and generally enjoy the great outdoors. We almost made it, and did everything but pitch the tent. I know, that’s probably the most important part, but we were tired.

In our case, sleeping on the wood floor in the almost-done house, not yet hooked up to plumbing and just one or two electrical outlets functional, it was still quite an adventure. It helped the effect tremendously that this house is set among a twenty-acre juniper forest with regular visits from deer, jackrabbits, owls, and the howls of coyotes, kept at bay by our dog. We had to use the outhouse, eat over a fire, and brush our teeth out by the teeth-brushing-tree. We all felt like we were honest-to-goodness-camping.

We reminisced around the campfire about the summer we lived on this property, just two years ago, in our travel trailer, parked right there by the teeth-brushing-tree. Back then, we were off the grid and had to haul in water, use the propane tank for heat and electricity, and make regular trips to dump the sewage. So, of course, we performed as many bodily necessities out-of-doors as we could, so as to cut down on the trips to the sewage dump place. Thus, the teeth-brushing-tree.

“See there, kids, remember when there was no house here?” Dad asks the children. They have a hard time remembering.

“Yes, there was just a pile of concrete,” JJ responds.

“No,” Dad has to jog her memory. “It was just dirt and trees.”

Good thing we have pictures to prove it.

We did a lot of stargazing in the camp trailer days, and the kids talked about how they hope once we move into this house, we’ll still have campfires every night and look at the stars.

“Mommy, did you know the Big Dipper isn’t actually a constellation?” JJ inquires, eager to display her knowledge of the night sky.

“Well, tell me about it, honey!” I urge her on.

“It’s really just a piece of the constellation called the Big Bear,” she proudly informs us. “And the handle of the dipper is the bear’s tail.”

Big L can’t let a seven-year-old control the information, so he adds, “The Little Dipper is also not a constellation, it’s part of the Little Bear.”

I need to teach them to say “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor” and maybe we can impress some friends.

So, the sky darkened to black with just our fire and the stars to brighten the night, helped out by the moon now 3/4 full, and the children grew tired and all wanted to climb into Daddy’s lap. I had mopped the wood floor of the living room earlier, the one patch of the house not covered with a fine film of dust, the residue of new construction. I snuck into the house to lay out the sleeping bags as Little L cried, “Mommy, where’s the tent?”

I had explained to the kids that we’d truly sleep in the tent soon, just not tonight.

“But aren’t you so excited to be having a campfire and sleeping in our new house for the first time?” I chattered happily, hoping to draw attention away from the absent tent.

“Yes!” the children all chorused.

“Whew.” I breathed sigh of relief, meltdowns averted. My husband had already broken the news to me that indeed he would not reset the sprinklers which would have soaked us all in the wee hours of the morning, nor would he be breaking down a tent when he needed to be off to pick up his construction laborer early the next morning, not to mention he was dog-tired. This was the perfect opportunity to set aside my well-formed plans and realize the particular season we’re in, which I call the mad-dash-to-the-finish-line-please-don’t-give-up-now season. There will be plenty of other occasions to pitch a tent.

In my incredible foresight, I had packed the laptop computer, and busily settled the children into their bedding to fall asleep to the original 101 Dalmations. I felt a small twinge of guilt as I recalled my idyllic vision of camping out in the tent, totally into nature. Jolted back to reality by the fact that now I could steal a quiet moment with my husband, I could avoid sibling rib-poking and other silliness, and for crying out loud, the kids spent the whole day outside already, I smiled a contented smile.

Displaying even more incredible foresight, I had packed our coffee maker and some excellent fresh grounds. This first morning in our new home, I awoke to the opening rays of the sun, children still in dreamland, and using one of those available outlets, brewed a steaming pot of coffee for my husband and myself. We took simple pleasure in how the gurgle of the coffeepot echoed across the room, and basked in the morning sun, amazed at how the sunlight lit up the kitchen and living room, and how its beams played on the mountains in the most delightful way.

My first thought was, “I’m so glad we didn’t sleep in the tent!” Even though my back was stiff from the hard floor, and it certainly wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve had, experiencing what it will be like to have morning in our new house was worth it. My husband and I chatted over coffee, walked the house and talked about the future. We watched a family of deer come to munch on the lawn, and a shy jackrabbit made his way forward as well. Just as I was about to snap a picture of three adorable young fawns in the side yard, the dog started them up.

It did our hearts good to see the dog finally have a job. He’s a cattle dog with an undeniable instinct to herd and chase. His tongue hanging out and a spring in his step, he bounded back to the dining room door, checking to see that we were watching his prowess. The deer were not that intimidated, and returned in a short while. It was a lovely show.

Somewhere in there, the kids awoke. They immediately asked if we could have a sleep-out again the next night. As I pulled a half-gallon of milk from the cooler I brought, stashed in the empty space soon to be occupied by the refrigerator, I said, “maybe.”

I think it worked. I think they actually felt like they were camping. Once the new-house-feel wears off, we’ll get the tent out.

WW: Front Yard Gymnastics With Dad


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Dad helps JJ do a backflip

Dad and JJ flippin'Dad says, “Ouch, my body is heavier than it used to be.”

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit the main page or 5 Minutes for Mom.

What are YOU doing outside today?

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In the blogosphere, we have the current Carnival of Family Life, Carnival of Homeschooling, Christian Carnival, Marriage Monday. It’s summertime and I can’t keep up with all of these like I want to!

I will be the host of next week’s Christian Carnival, and you can submit your post HERE by Tuesday, July 15, before midnight ET, and publishing at Diary of 1 Wednesday, July 16. More information on the Christian Carnival guidelines can be found at Parableman.

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Photohunt: Pointed (rock and spade)


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rockwork going up

Today’s photohunt theme is pointed. The pointed spade smoothes on the mortar for the pointed rocks. This section of wall is part of the outer front facade of our home. The rock work may be done by the end of the weekend – one step closer to moving in!

front entry of our house, ready for stone

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

We are grateful to God for the blessing of this home, for however long or short He chooses for us to make this our dwelling place.

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Independence Day!


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JJ and JoJo love their flag face painting!JoJo and JJ would like to wish you all a Happy 4th of July! They say “We love America” and hope you do, too.

We enjoyed our hometown Independence Day parade this morning, and the girls got their fill of horses…and candy. I call them “professional parade goers” since they never forget to bring their candy bags, and beg to go to any parade within a hundred mile radius. At first, I thought they just loved parades. I’m a slow learner.

fighting over parade candyDear children! I had had to say more than once. This holiday is about FREEDOM not candy! I don’t recall this inundation with treats at my childhood 4th of July parades. It’s all in good fun, but for kids the age of mine, it can be…distracting!

We talked about the first 4th of July and will be listening to this story today about George Washington. If you have young children, I highly recommend subscribing to You Need a Story, an outstanding weekly production from Robert Green that will show up in your inbox every Tuesday or so, always an exhilarating audio adventure, maybe a classic, maybe an unknown literary gem.

Here is a photo of my kids’ favorite parade entry this year:
miniature horses pulling wagons

They adore the miniature horses, and we pass the farm where they live nearly every day, so they said a friendly hello!

And of course, our dear friends from Lone Pine Clydesdales were back at this parade, all rested from last week’s parade.

Alisha and the Lone Pine Clydesdales

Big L makes a wishWe stopped at our property on the way back to our rental house, and Big L took a moment to make a wish. “What did you wish for?” inquired JJ. “I can’t tell you!” he says.

“Was it for a great and awesome destiny?” JJ prodded. “Or a miracle?”

I loved her guesses! What a thoughtful and creative mind. I certainly have those wishes for our great nation!!

Do you have a wish for America? And any parade pictures posted? Let me know, and enjoy a lovely Independence Day, my fellow Americans.

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America: the good, the bad, and the ugly


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This next weekend ushers in the birthday of the United States of America! Here are a few word pictures from this past week from me, in small town America, 232 years and still going. I’ve included the good, the bad, and the ugly, but as you’ll see, in America, we take the good with the bad and roll with it, and even the ugly – well, it’s a free country and we can call ugly if we want.

Yesterday morning, at a local parade, celebrating that old west pastime called Rodeo, I was thrilled to see my friends’ Clydesdales in all their hugeness. This was GOOD.

Lone Pine Clydesdales

And where else but Prineville could I find the Amazing Trash Can Marching Band? They dispose of garbage in step and in style. These guys were GOOD!

Amazing Trash Can Marching Band

On to the BAD…look at the interesting mound I discovered on our property a few days ago.

ant mound beneath old juniper tree

Kids, do NOT jump in the pretty pile, because…take a closer look:
harvester or rifa ants

Ooowwww. These are some aggressive ants, and I’ve been scrambling to find out what they are. Most notably, they have a red head and body and a shiny black behind. At first glance, they look and act just like the Allegheny Mound Ants. Build enormous piles. Have red head/thorax and black abdomen. But those mostly live in the upper Midwest to the New England states and south to Georgia.

So, another possibility is the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA). They also build mounds. Also have red forebody and black abdomen. But they live mostly in the southeast, however a few California counties have been infested, and there’s been suspected infestations in Oregon. I’m supposed to immediately contact the Oregon Department of Agriculture if I think I have these RIFAs, because they are considered an invasive species, and a serious health risk to pets and children, not to mention the damage that can be done to crops and other native plant life.

A final suspect, perhaps the most likely, is the harvester ant. This is a common desert ant, which fits my habitat. Another aggressive mound-building ant. Someone wrote a whole thesis on the harvester ant and how it’s helpful in locating small artifacts in archaeological surveys. I think I’ll start digging for Paiute relics in this very spot.

The only issue I’m trying to resolve with the harvester ants is whether it’s likely for them to have a red head/thorax and a black rear. This is the only photograph from the Oregon high desert (or anywhere) I can find that fits what I see here on my property; the rest are all red or all black. Anyone?

I can’t live with these creatures. It’s summertime and they are seriously swarming. They inflict especially painful stings and bites. Enter the brave husband. With the poison. We are not poison-happy people, but there are limits to my consciousness.
hubby poisoning the anthill

Don’t worry, my pretties, there’s enough here for everyone. Take this to your egg laying machine MOMMY!! But here’s a small problem. I went back to the mound yesterday, expecting it to be very quiet. But no. More activity and seemingly more ants than ever. I re-poisoned the area, and I’ll check again later.

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer or ruler, she prepares her food in summer and gathers her sustenance in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? Proverbs.

Enough of the BAD! But, remember, this is the United States, and I actually own this land of the mother-of-all-anthills (and have many ant poison options), God bless America!

Would you like to see the UGLY from small town America?

"ugly" orangesAmerica is soooo great, that even our “ugly” isn’t that bad. Okay, that is not true, there are truly horrific things going on in America, just as there are around the world. We all need Jesus! But, with our great nation’s birthday upon us, I’d rather find a bit of humor, a bit of appreciation for our free country.

Isn’t it great that a local fruit stand can sell delicious, sweet oranges, ugly and all? Great value, free from government imposed pricing, grown on fruitful land in a country where one can actually be a land-owner, we are so fortunate. If you really want ugly, you can read this supposed celebrate-America-Fourth-of-July-but-really-just-leftist-propaganda editorial, for which this newspaper should be ashamed.

How about these berries? I feel some baking coming on. One aisle over from the ugly oranges, and as beautiful as they come.
berries at the outdoor produce market

In closing, I hope you enjoy this lovely song, one of my very favorites, from that incredible musician, Rich Mullins. Here in America.

Some of my favorite lyrics from this song:

“…Once I went to Appalachia, for my father he was born there, and I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children…and the Holy King of Israel loves me here, in America!

Do you have anything (good, bad, or ugly) to share from your slice of America?

God Bless the U.S.A.

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Finish Strong


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By My Husband

The walls are up and the paint is on – now it’s time to head for the finish line, so to speak. It feels really good to have the structure done, the wires in the wall, the pipes in and the shingles on the roof. If only this last stretch didn’t seem to go on forever. You’ll constantly hear the phrases “You’re really close” and “You’re almost there” but it doesn’t feel that way. The finish work takes a lot of detail and scheduling that can suck you dry. Now’s the time to buck up and stay strong.

TRIM

window trim and baseboardsTrim really brings out your walls and makes things feel solid. I had initially wanted to do knotty pine trim but ended up going with a painted trim to save money. We wrapped our windows all the way which is becoming less common these days and man did it make our windows stand out. In our first home we replaced all of the doors, windows and trim, and so I know a good finish carpenter is everything. There are tricks to getting things fit and look good when they aren’t perfectly square. A good finish guy can hide a lot. My friend Matt took the honors and went to work, spending a lot of time with his tape, finish gun and chop saw and did a great job.

FLOORS

Carpet, wood and tile shopping is sooooo exhausting. There are a bazillion choices and trying to consider color combos and what should go where is tiring. After much driving and looking and internet browsing, I knew what I would have to pay per square foot of each. From there it was a matter of choosing within those ranges quantities of each that would total to my flooring budget.

Travertine in bathroomBy luck 18″ travertine went on sale at the local Home Depot just in time – $2.49 per square foot. The quality was about 80/20 that is about 80% of the tile was good to great and about 20% was bad to not usable. We strategically placed the good tiles in the most visible places and put the not so pretty ones in out of the way places like our utility closet, the corners of the pantry and under counters and appliances. Some of the tiles will be great except for maybe one edge or section, save those for places you need to trim a piece then just cut off the bad part.

Manchurian Walnut hardwood flooring

We did about 500 sq ft of hardwoods. I tried as hard as I could to find a hardwood I really liked under $4 per square foot. We ended up closer $5. You can get a hardwood for $3 but it will be a narrower plank and typically available only in standard colors. As I mentioned in a previous post, we have a rustic country style and so I wanted something wide planked and a little distressed. The Manchurian Walnut we went with had all of that at the best price we could find.

Carpet is a science. From 50 cents per square foot to several dollars you have to consider what’s important. To be blunt we went cheap. The carpet looks nice but is not a heavy pile. With four kids under the age of 9, and our entries and main living areas all hardwood or tile, we decided the carpet just needs to make it 5 or 6 years at which point we can replace it with something better. The money saved went back into hardwoods and tile that are both something you only want to put down once.

FIREPLACE AND FAUX STONE

Stone fireplaceOur entrance and fireplace both have faux stone and man there’s a lot of it. As of this writing we have finished the fireplace and it looks great. It took a little bit to get the rhythm, but once we got going it wasn’t too bad. We went with a sorta country rubble stone with wide grout lines as it matched the natural stones around the property. I found two or three magazine pictures I liked and tried to emulate them, which really helped as I could show the two guys helping me exactly what I was going for.

Fireplace mantle

For the fireplace mantle I bought a large timber from a small sawmill and then roughed it up to give a distressed look. It took a full Sunday to do this. Basically, I set it on a couple saw horses and used my grinder, belt sander, vibrating sander and hand planer to form it. After planing and sanding the initial shape, I used a chain and hammer to put some marks into it and the grinder to put some divots here and there. Then a propane torch and spray paint to accent the edges and mars. The vibrating sander then took off the excess paint and burn marks and we stained it. It did take two or three revisions to get each side just right but we are very pleased with the look, it has a very authentic appearance.

LANDSCAPING

As children, both my wife and I always dreamed of some day having a big green lawn. I grew up on the Oregon coast, a mile from the Pacific where sand, scotchbroom and sticker bushes dominated, and she in the middle of the southern Arizona desert where cactus and dust were the only options. As such, we have always enjoyed the luxury of a nice lawn.

our new grass sprouting upThis being our third home, I pretty much knew how I was going to attach the yard. This property was very challenging, however, as the amount of rock made trenching and tilling extremely difficult. I brought in a lot of loam and used a single spade plow on my tractor to turn the soil, pop rocks and then to trench. Trying to use a ditch witch would have been impossible. After turning the soil and getting it fluffed up a bit, I chained three logs to the back of the tractor and drug them around our yard for hours to level things out.

After getting things leveled out, I walked out my sprinkler heads, putting flags wherever a sprinkler was needed. You have to know how many gallons per minute your water system, public or private, can provide and then add up your sprinkler heads required gallons per minute, as stated by the manufacturer, usually betwen 1 and 3 GPM each. Our well is 60GPM but the water line from the house to the barn gets about 20 GPM in a 1″ pipe – I used that figure for the sprinklers as they have similar distances and pipe sizes. So I was safe at 20 GPM but kept each branch at 12 GPM or less to be safe.

going through pieces for sprinkler systemThe first lawn I put in was at our first house and I had sent in all of my dimensions to Rain Bird, as they would design your system for free and send you a plan and parts list. Off to Home Depot I went, and after having nearly filled two baskets with tons of small parts, a guy down the aisle walked up to me. He was wearing a jacket with the name of a local landscaping company on it, and the Rain Bird logo embroidered on the front pocket. He said, “Did you send in for one of those free system plans from one of the sprinkler companies?” I told him I had and he dryly responded that I should put it all back and just get a couple of larger heads to shoot across my yard and call it good. He said “Look, all ya wanna do is flick some water out there, try and hit your corners and get double coverage and you’ll be fine.”

I took his advice and saved a lot of time and money. Where they had specified 15 small heads for the front yard, with several in the middle of the yard, I put 5 large adjustable heads in each corner and it was fine. A lot less trenching, pipe and time. I did the same on this project and it still took me 2 full days just to put the pipe and sprinkler heads in the ground.

I always use 1/2″ funny pipe to connect each sprinkler. This makes it really easy to raise and lower a head or reposition it later if need be. It also will keep your PVC from busting if someone drives over a sprinkler head or drops a rock on it. Once the lines and sprinklers are in you’ll want to groom your topsoil one last time. Use a landscaping rake and make sure there is loose topsoil to accept the seed or sod. I prefer to seed over sod. It is easier and more gratifying, although you need to do it in spring or fall, plus you have to wait for your lawn to become established.

To seed, just spread it with a broadcast spreader and then rake it back and forth with a landscaping rake to work it into the topsoil. Ideally the grass seed will be 1/4″ under where it can stay moist and germinate. If you keep your soil moist and the weather stays in the 60 – 80 degree F range, you’ll see some grass shoots in 7 to 10 days and put your first cut in 4 to 6 weeks. When I seed, I over shoot and simply rake my edges after about 3 weeks. The grass has shallow roots and comes up easy and this is a fun way to shape your lawn.

FINAL WORD

It’s hard to believe we’re almost done. I still have fears of something going terribly wrong, and thus will not feel “done” until we sign the final mortgage documents. I’ve learned a lot, and while I have enjoyed the experience, will not be looking to do it again any day soon. My hat is off to those who make a living building, it takes someone special to do it day in and day out and to do it well. We hope to be moved in within the next 30 days and hopefully get back to normal schedules and routines soon after that.

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The Unknown Insect (that’s giving me nightmares).


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WHAT is this???

strange insect from the property

I’m so sorry to post such a disgusting picture. My apologies in advance if you have nightmares about this enormous arthropod crawling in your bed tonight. The kids found this on our property, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what it could be. I’ve looked in local field guides and can’t find it. Anyone know?

This was found in Central Oregon on our desert property; the kids accidentally dug it up or overturned it while shoveling dirt. Other habitation/features nearby include juniper trees, dry, volcanic soil, lava rocks, Western Fence Lizards, rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, jackrabbits, deer, field mice, owls, quail, lots of other birds of prey. And….this. ugly. thing.

I’m sure if I know the name of the creature my nightmares will stop. Thank you.

UPDATE: You all bloggers are so smart! Thank you for your input!! Drum roll, nightmares away, it’s a Jerusalem Cricket, commonly called a potato bug!

It’s neither from Jerusalem, nor a true cricket, nor does it prefer to eat potatoes. Most importantly, it is NOT venomous. But it is known to have a powerful bite, so do beware.

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The blog stuff:
Christian Carnival
Carnival of Family Life
Carnival of Homeschooling
The Carnival of Homesteading

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Drywall and Paint


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by My Husband

sheetrockFraming is done and the electrical wire is in the wall. Now it’s time to put some “rock” on the walls. Before you do, be sure to check your walls for warped studs and other defects. Most can be fixed with a handplaner or by shimming, and this will make your walls look nice and straight once the sheetrock goes on.

We received 3 drywall bids and they were all very close in cost. There is a typical industry standard of pricing drywall by the square foot. So assuming the drywall contractors measure your house the same, you should see comparable figures for the base bids. You’ll want to ask the drywallers to specify what thickness of drywall they are using, if they will be using nails or screws, and finally to make sure they will be sealing the drywall before texturing.

You’ll need to specify a texture as well. A nice light orange peel is fairly common and also the least expensive. We would have liked to have had some nice hand textures throughout, but it adds considerably to the cost. We reasoned that with a light texture we could always go back and retexture in later years as a remodeling project if we really felt like it. I know it sounds funny to talk about remodeling when building a brand new house, but it’s my way of letting things go at this stage, as I am a perfectionist and like everything done just so, even though my bank account often does not agree.

Big L sweeping drywall dustWe saved a little money with the drywall company by doing all of the cleanup. This was a chore, especially after the hangers got done. The drywall hangers left screws and dust and chunks of cutoff drywall everywhere – and I mean everywhere.

It took myself and son L almost a full day to get them thrown into a pile outside the house. It also took me half a day, using my tractor, to load my neighbor’s large dump trailer and haul it to the dump. It was hard earned savings.

Once the drywall is hung, the mudders come in, before they do make sure to check the hangers work. I called them and made them come back off and screw off in several places where they had gotten too light with the screws. There are codes for how many screws or nails need to be applied per feet with a given drywall thickness. I walked through the house and found a few closet walls and corners where they were missed and I could hit the wall with my fist and hear the drywall slapping on the studs behind.

hallway of drywallThe mudders will plop mud everywhere and once it dries it is no fun trying to get off the floor and bath fixtures. Be sure they mask and cover all of your tubs and showers and put down paper or drop clothes over your entire floor. The mudders will need heat or at least a decent temperature to make sure the mud dries between coats. If it is the middle of winter and your furnace is not hooked up yet, then you’ll need to rent a heater to keep the house warm.

After the drywall mud is on, your texturer will come in. If, like most, you are having a sprayed-on texture, be sure to clean your floor first. The texture gun will blow up junk, dust and dirt from your floor and into the wall texture otherwise. We had a lot by our back staircase that got on the walls and made a mess. Luckily we used a wide base board/runner up the stairs that covers it – but be prepared.

When you’re ready to start painting buy a gallon or quart of every color you intend to use. It will look different once on the walls and, as in our case, it may look too different. Anyone need 20 gallons of off-white? If you are going to paint your ceilings a different color, typically a white, then paint your walls first and then mask – it is much faster than trying to cut in (paint) the transition line from wall to ceiling.
painting
I like flat colors and think sheen is as much of the color as the color itself. I do not like shiny walls and so we went with flat paint everywhere but in bathrooms, where we used a satin finish because of moisture. We borrowed a friend’s sprayer – you’ll want a commercial grade sprayer not a little project one. You’ll also want to be sure to backroll all of your walls. That is, after spraying a section of wall you’ll want to roll it with a paint roller. This will take out any spray lines and help even out the color. Even though this seems like a lot of work, it is much faster than hand rolling, much faster. Make sure your roller stays wet and things will go fast.

I hope this was helpful. I’ll wrap this up next week, and we’ll be just about ready to move in!

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Of Deer Sheds and Eggshells


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JoJo's deer horn find“Mom! Look!” I had walked right by the 4-point deer shed, trying to keep my eye on the six children running wildly through our Juniper forest, praying the littlest ones wouldn’t trip on all the volcanic rock outcroppings. We had company, and they hadn’t seen our property yet, so off we went on a hike.

JoJo made the big find of the day, with this great deer antler. We stumble upon at least one every spring, as the deer run our property year round, and bed down and poop all over the place make themselves at home here. I remember my children’s amazement when they discovered that deer shed their antlers and grow a new set every year. Note to the deranged individual who continually posts comments here (I love my delete button) about how my husband, the deer hunter, is a “worthless, inhumane piece of sh*t for killing poor innocent deer” – JoJo did not kill this deer nor rip the antler from its head, the Hunter had nothing to do with this, and we love deer as creatures as well as deer for meat.

Big L's egg shellBig L was distraught that he was not the one to find the great antler, but some bird saved the day. His spirits returned as he soon raced over to me with his find: an enormous eggshell. We pondered what feathered friend could have hatched out of this. An owl? A hawk? An eagle? It’s anyone’s guess, but his treasure. Incidentally, he did find a spike antler later that day, which he immediately turned into a weapon.

There’s nothing so lovely as watching children play in nature, discovering the wonder of God’s creation. Even when said deer horn is used by one child to impale the head of another child, it’s all worth it. It was an accident, people (and oddly enough, only involved the girls). Something to do with a made-up game called “Deer Fighters.” Stitches not even required, but today’s hike cancelled.

I realize there are people who are “professional deer shed hunters.” They make money off these. Just in case anyone is tempted to come gather these, or any other objects, from our property, we have several signs posted just for you, all some variation of this one:
No Trespassing

Have a sunny day!

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Foundation to Roof


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Breaking ground
by My Husband
Breaking ground is exciting. After much planning and paperwork it’s finally time to actually start moving some dirt. For our home, I took on the task of doing the “site prep” and “push out” myself. With a flat building lot and blueprints in hand it didn’t seem too intimidating and proved to be very doable. Had the building site been on a slope and thus required more calculations, I may have thought twice about this. But, it wasn’t and so I rented a small bulldozer from the local heavy equipment company and started to work.

Before You Start
our lumber pileThe very first thing to do once you have your plans done is to get a lumber takeoff. Looking back I wish I would have done just one of these. Instead I gave a set of plans to 3 different lumber retailers and they all did separate bids for all of my lumber, siding, posts, brackets, housewrap and sheeting. Problem is, the takeoffs (materials list) were all different. Also, these takeoffs had a lot of assumptions in them. There is, for example, more than one brand and style of lap siding – all with different prices, benefits and so forth. So, pay a couple hundred for a takeoff to be done.

Once you have your takeoff done you still have to go through it and make changes. A big one I missed is exposed beams. Our porch has big beams all the way around and the engineer had only specified the minimum size, which is what the lumber company ended up putting on my order. So, a few of the beams ended up being 7″ tall because they required less load than the 9″ tall beams they connected to. That just did not work when it came time to frame the porch and we had to end up building up the beams to make them meet up. Brackets are another example. My supplier sent ugly galvanized post to beam brackets out when I had visualized nice powder coated ones. I exchanged and all is happy but it could have been smoother.

When you have your takeoff, give it to 3 or 4 lumber stores. Tell them you want a contractor’s account with terms and make sure they specify how long prices are guaranteed and return policies. You’ll see lumber and material prices go up and down a lot in the course of a year. Try to buy when it’s low as much as is feasible – that will require a little research and planning but it can payoff a lot if you are savvy.

What To Do and What Not To Do

Knowing what to do and what not to do on a building project is key. There is so much to do it can seem overwhelming. My advice is to focus on efficiency. Looking back, I spun my wheels a bit worrying about details – things I should have just left to the sub-contractors to figure out. You’ll be able to get done faster and save more money by getting at least 3 bids (I recommend 4), making sure you have negotiated the best material prices and coordinating and scheduling. Stay on the job but focus on pushing things forward.

Do not think you are going to save a bunch of money by doing everything. If the task requires a lot of specialized tools and intricate know how, you’ll be better off hiring out most of the time. Try to get things setup for the subs so they can get in and get their job done, and sell them on this. Make sure they know you are here to make their job easy.

Dealing With “Subs”

Make sure to absolutely require the sub contractors put in writing a finish date and who pays for overages. I learned this when my foundation contractor kept pushing out an extra day and then went over on his bid for concrete by $900. We ended up working it out but it was a hassle and stressful. I would also be cautious of handing over control of framing material purchases to a framing crew. These guys may be good but their task consumes the most material by far. My framing sub wanted me to let him do the material ordering – I told him no. No offense, but I didn’t know him from Adam and an open ticket at the lumber store sorta scared me. Some subs will order material on one job and move it to another to cover shortages or they may markup your lumber to make a little more since they get a discount from the lumber store, but you can do the same if you take in a materials list. I made myself the point man for materials on framing. I was on the job every day and asked for any materials they needed daily, which I would order or pickup. The lead framer had my cell number and it worked out quite well.

When you request a contractor give a bid, give them an outline of what you expect in spoken word or a cover letter along with your plans. Request they include any parameters you specify in their formal bid. They are not doing you any favors, so don’t feel bad about letting them know how you want it done. You’ll get a gut feeling when you talk with them, go with it. I didn’t a few times and it bit me. If a sub is grumpy and rather rude when you offer him the chance at your business, don’t expect him to be cheery once he is on the job.

double checkingDo make sure you check the work of your hired help and tell them early if you want it done differently, better yet tell them before they start how to do it if you have a specific desire. Every single sub I worked with wants to get in and get out, and often they don’t mind cutting corners to get it done quicker. I made it clear that good enough was not good enough. We can have a good working relationship, but that doesn’t mean I am going to smile when you do something the wrong way. I also think the work is done better when there is knowledge that the owner will be checking it thoroughly on a regular basis. I am sure if you can pay for a true master carpenter, this isn’t necessary, but most likely you’ll be on the other end of the spectrum.

Foundation to Roof Quick Tips

When the foundation goes in make sure it is spot-on with the plans. Check the layout before pouring and make changes if necessary. I triple checked every wall length and angle one evening after the sub had left for the day. I found a few small errors and one big one. The foundation forms should also be plumb, level, greased and well braced. Check for all of this. A bad form setup will give you a foundation stem wall that is very difficult to build on, wastes concrete and looks rough when the form boards are pulled.

framingFraming crews are in a league of their own. I hadn’t listened to so much 80′s rock since high school. Stereo blasting, nail guns thumping and saws ripping, these guys want to turn it out fast. A good framer will check for plumb and level quite a bit. A not so good framer will use shortcuts used on track homes and say good enough when doing so. These types of small errors add up and magnify as you go up. A good framer will be conscious of the lumber warp and wane and then strategically utilize less acceptable lumber.

ready to roofI did roofing for a summer and considered doing ours. I am glad I didn’t. I found a good deal and ran with it. It got done in a few days and I was able to work on other things in the meantime. For your roof, you can vent with standard roof vents or with ridge venting. Ridge venting allows for more airflow at the peak and thus is preferred – keeping your attic cooler in the summer and saving you money. The cost difference is a little more but it wasn’t too bad. Make sure your sub tells you what type of valley flashing he will do. There are a lot of methods, some cheaper and some better – take a pick. I would recommend not skimping on this as a leaky roof means a lot of trouble. Check with local roofing supply companies and ask them what they consider to be adequate and what is subpar. This will differ depending on where you live as climate is the determining factor. High winds and/or freezing temperatures for example, need to be addressed in roofing to ensure ice and snow doesn’t dam up and water doesn’t blow into the building structure.

That’s it. Hope this was insightful and useful to some of you out there.

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Homesteading Carnival: Oregon Trail Edition


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Welcome to the Homesteading Carnival Oregon Trail Edition! The articles will be arranged around details of the Oregon Trail, so let’s pack our wagons and head west.

Oregon Trail 1843 map

The Oregon Trail was a route to not only Oregon, but the only feasible pathway to the entire western United States. Travel to places like Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and California was only possible because of this passage over the mountains. The 1843 wagon train, with about 1,000 pioneers making the journey, kicked off the big westward expansion, with over half a million travelers over the next 25 years braving the journey.

Carole DeJarnatt presents Build A Chicken Feeder Series posted at Fowl Visions.

Also commonly found slung on the sides of emigrant wagons were water barrels, a butter churn, a shovel and axe, a tar bucket, a feed trough for the livestock, and a chicken coop. A fully outfitted wagon on the Oregon Trail must have been quite a sight, particularly with a coop full of clucking chickens raising a ruckus every time the wagon hit a rock. From End of the Oregon Trail.

GP presents The Innside Scoop on Hosting House Guests posted at Innstyle Montana- Come on Inn.

Bush established a successful farm near present day Olympia on land that became known as Bush Prairie. He and his family were noted for their generosity to new arrivals and for their friendship with the Nisqually Indians who lived nearby. From HistoryLink.

Oregon Trail wagon settlers
Jennifer Bogart presents Planting Rhubarb posted at Measure Twice, Cut Once.

A typical day started before dawn with breakfast of coffee, bacon, and dry bread. The bedding was secured and wagon repacked in time to get underway by seven o’clock. At noon, they stopped for a cold meal of coffee, beans, and bacon or buffalo prepared that morning. Then back on the road again. Around five in the afternoon, after traveling an average of fifteen miles, they circled the wagons for the evening. The men secured the animals and made repairs while women cooked a hot meal of tea and boiled rice with dried beef or codfish. Evening activities included schooling the children, singing and dancing, and telling stories around the campfire. From End of the Oregon Trail.

Belle presents Did You Know……All Soaps Have Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)? posted at Born 100 Years to Soon.

One pound of Castile soap was recommended for the journey (for one man on a three month expedition).

Dora Renee’ Wilkerson presents Soap Creations review posted at Y-2K Hippie.

Minimal cooking utensils included a cast iron skillet or spider, Dutch oven, reflector oven, coffee pot or tea kettle, and tin plates, cups, and knives, forks, spoons, matches, and crocks, canteens, buckets or water bags for liquids. A rifle, pistols, powder, lead, and shot were recommended for hunting game along the way, and for self-defense. Candles were used for lighting, as they were far less expensive and lighter than transporting oil, and several pounds of soap was included. Only two or three sets of practical, sturdy, and warm clothing of wool and linen had to last the wear and tear of the journey, and a small sewing kit for repairs was important. Basic tools such as a shovel, ax or hatchet, and tools to repair wagon equipment were essential. Bedding and tents completed the list of necessities. From BLM Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Jacque presents Summer Plans posted at Walking Therein.

June 3 Passed through St. Joseph on the Missouri River. Laid in our flour, cheese, crackers and medicine, for no one should travel this road without medicine, for they are almost sure to have the summer complaint. Each family should have a box of physicing pills, a quart of castor oil, a quart of the best rum and a large vial of peppermint essence. Elizabeth Dixon Smith. From End of the Oregon Trail.

Miss Jocelyn presents Making The Home: Washin’ The Laundry posted at Growing In Grace Magazine.

Resting on Sundays, in addition to giving the oxen and other animals a needed break, also gave the women of the wagon train a chance to tend to their domestic chores — particularly doing the laundry, as the dust on the Trail pervaded every article of clothing exposed to it. Occasionally, a wagon train’s arrival at a source of clean water was enough to prompt a special stopover for laundry day. From End of the Oregon Trail.

Lady Olivia presents Cherry Pie in a Cup posted at Growing In Grace Magazine.

In procuring supplies for this journey, the emigrant should provide himself with, at least, 200 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of bacon; ten pounds of coffee; twenty pounds of sugar; and ten pounds of salt. From Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California, 1845.

Thanks for visiting, this is the end of the trail! The next Homesteading Carnival will be hosted by The Daily Planet. You may submit your post HERE.

Old Wagon, Oregon
photo credits:
www.historyglobe.com
www.isu.edu
Diary of 1

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Planning & Prep


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by My Husband

laying the foundationStrangely enough, when undertaking a building project you’ll receive a flood of marital counseling. For me, it came from a few friends, first the realtor and then the mortgage guy. They all say, with a certain seriousness, to be careful not to let the building experience ruin or even destroy your marriage. They profess to have actually seen it happen. It seems so odd when starting out, but the story goes that as the project progresses, the endless flood of decisions can lead to conflicts between you and your spouse. Fighting over such things as wall colors or door sizes, cabinet styles or floor coverings may seem trivial, however if we really look at the pettiness of most of our day to day arguments, they are usually of even less importance.

So, the first bit of advice is to pray. Pray for yourself and your significant other to have grace, patience and latitude towards one another when making these choices. Try to start by agreeing on broad rules and making your concessions here. Agree on an overall color and decor theme and in general an overall feel. Look at magazines; we went through a lot and clipped out everything we liked. We went on the Tour of Homes and just talked – “Oh I like that” or “Man, that bath tile looks too fancy for my taste.” We also liked to go through new developments and tour the model home. It’s a great way to find all kinds of ideas and to see what the current hot design ideas are. You’ll soon find common ground and have learned what you both like.

Once you have a good feel for what you’re shooting for, you need to make sure it fits with where you’re building. Our lot is very, how should we say, cowboy. It’s high desert, there is sage brush, craggly old junipers and coyotes and rattlesnakes to boot. I love rustic and wanted a house that complemented the sage greens and desert tans all around us. As simple as this seems, it really helped to define our style before we started looking at things like siding, paints and stains.

SITE PLANNING
after digging the power trenchDepending on your lot size and local building codes you’ll need to determine where your house will sit, where the driveway will go, how you’ll hook into utilities and a myriad of other topics. We were required to submit a site plan to the county that showed all of these things drawn to scale, along with easements and setbacks, as well as where our well would be drilled and where the septic system would be located.

These types of decisions can be hard to make, especially if you have a larger lot where you have more possibilities. I spent a lot of time driving to the property and walking it over and over. I brought ladders and climbed trees to try and get a feel for what second story views would look like at different locations. I was also very mindful of how much privacy the trees in different locations offered. I really didn’t like the idea of having to put blinds on our windows to obtain privacy when we lived on 20 heavily treed acres.

When considering locations, I also thought about how much it would cost to get utilities and a road to any particular building site. I had a 100′ tape measure and had already called the power company to see what they charged to put in power. If you’re too far way then they have to bring in more equipment, lines and transformers, which translated means more money. I also borrowed a friend’s laser level and checked elevation to see where I could put my septic system’s drain field without requiring a pump.

After collecting all of this information and weighing the options, we made the decision to build about 500 feet further up on the property than we had initially planned. What seemed like an obvious building location at first glance became less attractive as we really looked. The location where the house now sits is, without a doubt, the right spot. It has great views that weren’t initially apparent but came into their own with some selective thinning of trees. It also has a great amount of privacy. Finally, the location was the most economical spot for connecting to utilities, installing a septic system and building a driveway.

HOUSE PLANNING
foundation footprint of our house

We really were hoping to find a stock plan that we liked, but it was a useless venture. The fact that I work at home and thus need a separated space for an office, combined with the need for a full master suite for Jen’s mom, limited our options. Nothing seemed right for our needs. Having done design, 3D and a little CAD over the years, I thought I would take a crack at trying to design our home. After a few frustrating weekends, a bit of wisdom broke through as I figured out that I had no idea about how a house should flow and what standard dimensions were.

Instead I found a small design company with a nice portfolio who could listen to our wants and come up with a plan for us. House designers are less expensive than architects but can still do great work. If you want to save money with a stock plan, find house designers in your area and view their stock plans. These plans will already be engineered to your local building codes and you’ll find styles that match your locale.

We had an initial meeting with the designers, showed them some styles we liked and gave them some rough parameters – the rooms we needed, our overall square footage and budgeting goals. I made it clear that while I wanted an aesthetically pleasing house, I didn’t want a lot of complicated angles and open beams and so forth that would really add to the cost. It took a few meetings and revisions to get things tweaked just right, but it was, in all, a fairly painless experience.

One final item to note is energy savings. I am not a “green” advocate but I hate paying my electric bill. As a result, I investigated several energy saving building strategies. Solar passive design is fairly easy to incorporate into a home design and is an easy way to seriously cut your heating and cooling costs. I simply made sure the house’s southern exposure was maximized and that there were enough windows on that side to collect solar heat in the winter months and enough window overhang to shade against solar heat in the summer months. I’ll touch more on this in a future article, but for now just bear in mind that for decades homes were designed without any consideration of that huge ball of energy that our planet revolves around. Take advantage of free heating energy from the sun in the winter and block it in the summer and you’ll keep a lot of greenbacks in the bank.

CONCLUSIONS

For anyone who might be starting down the path of building your own home at anytime in the future, I would offer the following advice.

First, realize this is just a house, wood, paint and tile. It is not eternal and thus should be viewed as temporary. I heard a great sermon on the radio one day as were just breaking ground. The pastor talked about how we often talk about things in a possessive nature, like we somehow earned it or own it. He used the example of a piece of land (how fitting) and how he found himself referring to it as “his” property, and that the Lord corrected him and reminded him that it was someone else’s before him and will be someone else’s after him, and that in truth all things are from God and are God’s. This is instrumental. Treat your building project as a blessing for this season and you’ll find it easier to let go of the incidentals.

Second, spend time considering how to get the most out of your lot. The footprint and positioning of your house will affect many things, especially on smaller lots. Moving your home toward the street on a small lot will give you more of a back yard, but haphazardly plopping it right in the middle for no good reason may eat up valuable usable space. Think of windows and sunlight. Do you like sun on your toes in the morning on those cold winter months? If so, consider where the southern exposure is and how to situate your home to maximize this.

Third, choose a designer to work with, even if you go with a stock plan out of a magazine. You’ll most likely have to have it re-engineered to local code and that means things like walls and roofs might need to change and this is where a designer can make it look right and save you a ton of headaches down the road. You may be able to find an architect that fits your budget, otherwise the designer will make the changes and have an engineer calculate the loads and put his stamp on the plans.

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June random stuff. Blogging, Ranching, Giving Away.


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Yesterday was an interesting day of firsts. The kiddos found a chirping nest full of baby birds (children, do NOT touch!) and happened upon (cued by loud barking from the dog) a nest of wild baby bunnies jackrabbits (children, do NOT touch!). As we drove home late in the evening, I came within inches of smashing a great horned owl into my windshield, as it was concentrating on the baby field mouse it had snatched off the road. And finally I pulled into our house to see a yard full of little deer. It’s spring in the Oregon high desert.

All of the childhood exploring was possible because my husband and I were busy breaking our backs trying to get the yard prepared to plant some grass. I snapped off my shovel handle just above the spade (is that a bad sign?) trying to pry up a boulder and I bent the prongs of my husband’s $50 rake. I’ll go soak my weary bones in a hot bath and try to focus on how green that grass will be in a few months.

******
Well, it’s June now. I have a special giveaway for DADS (or grads). Father’s Day is June 15, just two weeks away. I’m going to let the winner choose any in-stock item under $30 from our online sports store, TeamMASCOT.com. We carry team logoed products across six leagues – NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR. If you’re not going to settle for giving another necktie on Father’s Day, consider a key chain, wallet, or even a hammer with his favorite team’s logo!

Please be sure the item is in-stock (noted after the product description), because I’ll need to get this shipped by the end of the week to guarantee arrival for Father’s Day. CONTEST CLOSES Friday, June 6. TO ENTER, leave a comment on this post, letting me know which product you would like. Open to U.S. and APO addresses. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you, so I can notify the winner and get this shipped to the correct address.
******

Marriage Monday, hosted by Chrysalis blog coming tomorrow! Submit your post after today on any aspect of your wedding here.

There are several blog carnivals that you may want to catch up on. Just topical collections of blog articles.

Christian Carnival and up again Wednesday at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.
Carnival of Homeschooling, and up again Tuesday at Tami’s Blog.
Carnival of Family Life, and coming again tomorrow at Live from Waterloo.
Homesteading Carnival, and coming again tomorrow at Lighter Side.

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The Farmer’s Wife


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entrance to Walking H Ranch

In the high desert of Central Oregon lies one small valley, so green and fertile that one forgets for a moment which side of the Cascades this is. The fields are grassy, the elk wander down from the hills to graze with the cattle, and the verdant hills rise up to meet the juniper and sage which overlay the bluffs, the only visible reminders that this is, indeed, the desert. It’s here in the heart of the Lone Pine Valley that I caught up with Connie Hegele, who, with her husband and sons, owns the Walking H Ranch.

Connie has three grown children and one daughter-in-law, and in a rare situation by today’s standards, has her entire family working, in some capacity, in the family business. Businesses, I should say. The Hegeles also own American Sprinklers, in operation since 1975, and Lone Pine Clydesdales, now the second largest breeder in Oregon. One of her sons, Travis, runs SAR, an environmental consulting corporation.The Hegeles also own commercial property in Portland as well as Central Oregon.

Connie and her husband, Chuck, are both native Oregonians, and I would be hard pressed to find another family that so well represents the pioneer spirit for which Oregon is famous. Had they lived in the 1840s, I’m sure they would have been blazing the Oregon Trail. Here in the Lone Pine Valley, the Walking H Ranch sits on 277 beautiful acres, and they farm 106 irrigated acres. Connie’s boys are in full charge of the farm, and I see this as the mark of a wise woman, that her children continue her work and are themselves productive citizens.

Growing up on a farm with milk cows, horses, and goats, Connie is no stranger to farm life. She spent her childhood summers at her granddad’s 100,000 acre ranch in Burns, rounding up cattle and cutting hay to load on the wagons still pulled by draft horses. Connie always loved those draft horses, and for her birthday about a dozen years ago, Chuck gave her a little black Clydesdale, and the rest is history. For their 36th anniversary four years ago, he gave her (they actually gave each other) a pair of buffalo, so we’ll see where that goes!

Connie is a woman who seems to be everywhere at once, and it was hard for me to pull this post together. Her work is often behind-the-scenes, and all the details that seem to magically come together are because of her untiring efforts. Let me just give you a snapshot of one of her days this weekend.
Connie in the kitchentable set for Memorial Day BBQ
The Hegeles planned a Memorial Day party/cannon shoot/BBQ at the old Lone Pine Elementary School, which was sold by the county years ago, and purchased and renovated by the Hegele family, beginning in 1998. So, I found Connie up bright and early Saturday morning, setting the tables, arranging food and decorations, making last minute phone calls. In their usual generous way, they had invited us to join in the festivities.

If you had happened to be driving by, you would have been invited, too. Later that evening, at my table sat four strangers – a man who had been motoring by on his Harley the week before and noticed Chuck’s cannon (he builds cannons and I’ll need an entire post just to fill you in on Chuck). Chuck showed the man his shop and gave him the full tour, along with an invitation to the Memorial Day weekend party. Here he was, and he’d brought his wife and son and daughter-in-law. I heard him comment, “These are the friendliest bunch of people I’ve ever met.” At the next table over, I noticed one of the Hegeles’ farm workers and his family. Behind them sat an old couple that Connie’s son, Rocky, had sold cattle to years ago. And Connie feeds them all. “Growing up on Granddad’s ranch, they always did that,” she said.

There are the nuts and bolts of what Connie does for the family business: she does the books, the bulk of the paperwork, running supplies, bidding projects, handling phone calls, showing their real estate in Portland and here. Then there are the intangibles, the truly significant features that can’t be defined in a job description: she has raised children who love and respect her and stick around to work in the family businesses, she has taken in other kids who’ve temporarily lost their way or are in need, she labors side by side with her husband, supporting him in all things, she is back and forth to Portland caring for her ailing mother, she is generous and hospitable even to the undeserving.

Connie and her daughter-in-law AlishaChuck and his cannon

I presented a few questions for Connie to answer for my readers, and her responses are short – because as you know, the farm wife barely has a moment to sit – but sensible.

Jen: The culture of the family farm is dying, and your family is one of the only ones I personally know that is making it work. In the truest sense of a “family farm,” the family and the farm are inseparable – what does this look like in your family?

Connie: The family farm, to be successful, needs to have some of the same goals and be open to new ideas.

And I should add here that I see this with the Hegele family – whether the project is renovating an old schoolhouse or raising horses, I see this unity – whether it’s Connie’s daughter, Candy, picking out the new paint for the school or her daughter-in-law Alisha helping a mare give birth, they are all working toward the same goals.

Jen: One of the unfortunate casualties of modern agriculture is that a family can hardly make a living on the farm anymore. How does your family overcome this economic reality?

Connie: Our family farm is considered extra income. The income is put toward an investment, usually a piece of equipment.

This would explain all those other businesses – it’s extremely difficult these days for individual families to make a living solely on a farm income.

Jen: We talked a bit about a husband and wife working together in the family business, as you and I both do. And we’ve both heard the comments about “I could never do that.” What makes this partnership work for you and Chuck?

Connie: Respect for each other and working together toward new goals. Life always needs to be open to new interests and ideas.

Jen: I’m impressed with the fact that your grown children are so involved in what you do, especially in a modern culture where families are, more often than not, scattered or estranged from one another. What advice would you give to a young family regarding ways to build community and a culture of “togetherness” within the family unit?

Connie: Take time to listen to each other about what you want out of life. Be able to look outside of the box.

Great advice, thanks Connie! I hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to the country; stop in and say hello.
Walking H Ranch

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch


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Would you like to see what we’ve been up to at the ranch? The outside is nearly done, save for some dormers, the porch, and landscaping. Here’s the view from the east side.

The ranch in progress

Inside, we’ve been busy, busy. Drywall and texture is now complete, and tomorrow we begin painting. We spent the morning finalizing our interior colors (mostly earthy tones, some yellows, browns). We’re doing it ourselves, and the rest of today will find me and the kids pulling up paper from the floor and sweeping/vacuuming all the dust, in preparation for tomorrow. Here is my husband’s grand office last week (since been textured and primed):

the office drywalled

It’s not all work and no play. The kids run around and find so many interesting things to do for a break. Like climbing trees:
JoJo up a treeLittle L sitting in tree

….catching lizards….
JJ caught a lizardBig L gets a good look at the new lizard
….digging tunnels….
nothin' better'n dirt

We hope to be moved in to our new place in a few months. It’s been about three years since we first embarked on this project, so you can imagine how ready we are to be done, how excited we are to be “home,” how exhausted we are. :-)
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Blog Carnival links:

Learning in the Great Outdoors
Carnival of Family Life
Carnival of Homeschooling
Make It From Scratch
Carnival of the Insanities

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Brothers


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Big L and Little L watching the llama and goats fighting across the field

brothers in the sun

My two country boys.

Wordless Wednesday.

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How can I possibly have a child old enough to ride a motorcycle?


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Big L and his motorcycleWhen did his scooter sprout a motor? When did those endearing “vroom-vroom” noises of my baby begin to emit from a big, scary machine and not his pouty little lips? As every parent knows, and as every older parent loves to tell the younger parents, they grow up so fast.

Here is Big L, in all his nearly-nine-year-old glory, with his first motorcycle. I guess this is what comes after the “big boy bike.” First they shed the training wheels, then they shed the pedals. He was enjoying a ride around the trails Dad made at the property, his reward for spending a few hours helping clean up the drywall debris.

He’s big enough for real work now, and when Dad called me to drop Big L off at the property to help him, it was not out of an affectionate desire for his company (although that’s a nice benefit), but because he truly needed a hand. I feel like I’m in a sort of time warp, watching my boy become a man before my very eyes. Vroom-vroom!

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Carnival of Homesteading #45


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water pumpWelcome to the 45th Carnival of Homesteading! If you’ve been around here when I host a Blog Carnival, you know how much I love themes! But, alas, I had issues. Computers, kids, work, and some other meanies all conspired against me. Or maybe I was just lazy.

So here is a very SIMPLE carnival, which I suppose is in keeping with the theme of homesteading! There were just 12 submissions, which I’ve listed first, followed by some of my own Top 10 Editor’s Picks that I grabbed from around the blogosphere, which fit the homesteading motif. You’ll find my own small commentary following each post.

(Let me know if you find any errors, omissions, bad links, etc.)

Rose Denson presents Spearmint Hot Pepper Horseradish Spray posted at Grandma Rosie’s Texas Home.

This is for the bugs, not for you!

Dora Renee’ Wilkerson presents Making Cottage Cheese posted at Y-2K Hippie.

This looks yummy. There is also a recipe for hand milled soap here.

Belle presents My Diary of No Shampoo—-Day 4 and 5 posted at Born 100 Years to Soon.

Belle shares her egg shampoo experiment. Yes, the kind you crack open and out comes gooey stuff. Find out why in the world she’s putting this in her hair on purpose.

Valereee presents Foraging: hot new foodie trend, or the hottest new foodie trend? posted at Cincinnati Locavore.

Finding wild edible treasures – is this trend here to stay? Is it fueled by fears of a depression? Read more!

Dave Trenholm presents How to Make a Square Foot Garden posted at Alberta Home Gardening.

Learn how to plant in blocks and eliminate the 80% of your traditional garden that you just walk on.

Moobeema presents MooBee Farm: The Burn Barrel Incident posted at MooBee Farm.

What happens when WIFE wants a burn barrel to match the color of her house…MooBeeFarm delivers up some amusement for you.

Sister Brenda presents Da Yooper Pasties Recipe and Tutorial posted at haflinger.

Mmmm, meat pie!! Having lived in Michigan for many years, I knew right away what this was all about! “Da Yoopers” are those great folks who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Flossie presents Aunt Lizzie’s Pound Cake posted at The Funny Farm.

Oh, my, this isn’t just the aunt’s recipe…it’s the great, great aunt’s recipe! And Flossie knew her! This family must have started having babies young. I didn’t even know one single great aunt, let alone a great-great.

Stephanie presents So Much to Say! posted at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.

We know about the guard dog, but a guard donkey? Oh, yes, read on!

GP presents How Green is Your Garden posted at Innstyle Montana- Come on Inn.

Just get a load of her greenhouse! I’m positively green with envy!

Miss Amanda presents Cake Baking Photo Essay posted at My Learning Experience.

What a sweet sister to make such a lovely cake for her brother!

Jacque Dixon presents From the Archives- Gardening 101 – You *Can* Teach Your Children!! posted at Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths.

There is something for every age in the garden, and Jacque gives some great tips on teaching children that incorporate science, math, art, biblical lessons and more.


And now for the 10 other goodies that I discovered in cyberspace:

At Tales from Creekistan, I found The Daffodil House. Just don’t look inside the house.

At Blind Pig & the Acorn, I enjoyed The Fields of Home. I love that field, and read her garden wisdom.

At Hidden Haven Homestead, this author is Counting Blessings. I’m just trying to count the goats.

Down On The Farm shares some “Tails” From the Farm. In search of the perfect Jersey cow – bringing Buttercup home to the Back Forty.

At Kentucky Hollers, Running Into the Neighbors can be a literal experience, and Catherine discovers that sometimes movie stars retire to the Appalachian foothills.

Adventures in Farming coins a new saying, Snug as pigs in straw. The cutest little things I’ve ever seen.

In My Kitchen Garden has an intriguing offer: Attention Homeless Organic Vegetable Lovers: Would You Like To Move To A Farm? Seriously. Pack your bags and go live with the enormous pot-bellied pig.

Old Red Barn Co. clarifies work: It’s the reason you have kids, afterall. It was planting time, and lucky for Dana, she has a few sprightly young’uns.

Yarnstorm muses about tulips and tempests.Wow, those colors.

CraftApple instructs us on Gathering. For the seamstress in you – simple, foolproof techniques for a perfect gather.

Happy homesteading, now get on with your baking, planting, stitching, haying, milking, crafting, canning, quilting life!

Stay tuned next week, when the Homesteading Carnival will be hosted by Jacque at Seeking Rest in Ancient Paths. Submit your Homesteading posts HERE.

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Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt: Twist(ed)


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photohunters

This week’s theme: Twist(ed)

twisted barbed wire fence

About 1/4 mile down the road from me, this twisted barbed wire fence marks the boundary between one old farm and another. At times it held back cattle, at times perhaps a feud.

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Homesteading Blog Carnival: Call for Submissions


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My, another blog carnival is on the way! The Homesteading Carnival will be hosted here at Diary of 1 this coming Monday, April 14. You can submit your blog post/article HERE by Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.

This blog carnival description reads:

A carnival full of homesteading articles… from your kitchen with yummy recipes, your sewing room with homemaking ideas to planting your garden, raising farm animals, and raising a family on the homestead. Please join us on the homestead and submit something from yours!

Now, if you don’t have a big ranch or farm with 12 children milking goats and collecting eggs every day, do not exclude yourself from this carnival! The Homestead Act (1863) provided the original homesteader with 160 acres if he could build a home on the property and inhabit the place for five years. But how many folks have 160 acres these days? And certainly not for free.

Homesteading has a broader interpretation these days. There are urban homesteaders who may not have a lot of real estate but sure have a lot of self-sufficiency. Maybe you have a balcony vegetable garden, maybe you have some good advice for living simply, being frugal yet generous, becoming debt free, or have figured out creative ways for how to make do with less. Please share your wisdom!!

Here is an unfortunate thing for a Christian like myself: Christian perspectives about homesteading are lost among the ideas of earth/nature worshippers, pantheists, pagans, socialists, New Age thinkers, and other extremes of the “green” movement. I believe that the Bible has answers for a rightly balanced life, with God at the center, and that Christian homesteading can be a piece of this balance.

Once again, submit your homesteading blog post HERE, and I look forward to presenting an educational and inspiring collection of articles on Monday!

OH, and don’t forget to leave a comment on my Gardening With Children post if you’d like to win a copy of Roots, Shoots, Bucket & Boots: Gardening Together With Children. Closes on Sunday evening. (The author, Sharon Lovejoy, left me a sweet comment on that post! Not a paid post, just a kind author.)

WW: Greetings From the Garden


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My family garden stake

Here’s the Diary of 1 family waving to you from a pile of dirt our future garden. I love my garden stake. For more Wordless Wednesday participants, go to the WW hub or 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Bone and Stones and More at the Ranch


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It’s a child’s playground at the ranch, and always a unique adventure around the corner. Here are thirteen snapshots of my kids enjoying the land around our ranch, and they would like to invite their friends to come and:

1. Catch a lizard
JJ caught a lizard

2. Ride a tractor
JoJo on tractor

3. Investigate old bones
old bones

4. Dig up interesting stones
Big L digging for rocks

5. Collect feathers
the girls collecting feathers

6. Ride the tire swing
JoJo on tire swing

7. Sit in the dirt
Little L sitting in dirt

8. Collect firewood
JJ collecting firewood

9. Build a fire ring
Little L at fire pit

10. Build a fire
fire

11. Catch a scorpion (with Dad’s help!)
scorpion in jar

12. Explore with the dog
JoJo exploring with Riley

13. Speculate what animal this was
Big L with jawbone/teeth

What would YOU like most to do?

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Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt – Wooden (our ranch)


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photohunters

This week’s theme: Wooden

Our Ranch in Progress

That’s a lot of wood! We’re getting there, folks! We continue to build the wooden structure that we call “the ranch.”

Here is a view from the back, and I truly hope to show the finished product in a few months. To all of you who have ever engaged in a building project, and survived, you have my highest regard.

Back of the house

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WW: I Had to Pull Over


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Sunset over Three Sisters

Sunset over the Three Sisters, part of the Cascade Mountain Range that I’m blessed to look at every single day. This photo is from last week, and I wasn’t the only one to pull over. Even us locals who see this stunning horizon all the time are still in awe on days like this.

For more Wordless Wednesday participants, please visit the official WW Hub or 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Homestead


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Homestead

About the photo: This is the original homestead from our property – and yes, it’s still standing, won’t you come in for a cup of burnt coffee boiled in a pan over the cookstove? The land has since been divided, and the 20 acres we own isn’t graced by this dwelling. Our neighbor who does own the property this sits upon has plans to reinforce the structure and keep it up as an historic landmark – she just needs to keep her cows from knocking the place over. You wouldn’t believe how many tourists and locals alike pull over to take pictures of this old homestead!

Cows at the HomesteadMore Blog Carnivals:

The Carnival of Family Life

The Carnival of Homeschooling

The Christian Carnival

Enjoy a wonderful Wednesday! I guess this post really wasn’t “wordless.”

Wordless Wednesday: When You’re Three, You Can Own an Island


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Wheelbarrow Island

About the photo: I call it Wheelbarrow Island. I just sat back and watched my kids turn an old wheelbarrow into a magical little place, with captains lost at sea, mysterious creatures of the deep, and a luau back at the beach. This thrills me to no end.

Wordless Wednesday: Ride Off Into the Sunset


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Sunset and Rails

I captured these sunset-kissed railroad tracks on my way home one evening, and couldn’t help but think of Lady’s magic gold dust (for you Thomas the Tank Engine fans).

Blog Carnivals to catch:

The Carnival of Homeschooling
The Christian Carnival
The Carnival of Family Life
The Festival of Frugality

Progress at the Ranch


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Building a house…we are determined to make this a positive experience for the family, despite the reality of the many pressures and strains such a project can create. We pray for grace and mercy in this endeavor.

Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Psalm 127:1

So, here’s a little photo journey of the latest developments. We all worked and played there over the weekend, and our Friday homeschool day was spent learning about septic systems, barn building, pump houses, mixing concrete, and such.

House all framedAs you can see, our house is framed, sided, and just about ready for roofing. We’re racing against the weather to be dried in before the rain and snow is upon us. This is my husband’s handiwork; he put an incredible amount of effort and detail in the design of this home. He’s been on-site managing and laboring from the beginning – and he’s doing an amazing job. His maddening profitable habits of perfectionism have made for a remarkably straight, square, and perfectly plumb house.

Barn going upThe pole barn/shop is on its way up, as well. I was dreaming of an Amish barn-raising, but it’s mostly just my husband doing the labor, with some help from whoever happens to be around. The poles are set in the concrete and this building will be done within a few weeks. It’s a simple structure, but the man is so excited to have a place for the tractor, the lawnmower, the bikes, the tools. Yes, we want to use the garage to actually park cars, not store the ranch equipment. Man, do you see those clouds rolling in? Hurry it up!

wet concreteSome little child discovered the physics of wet concrete. There may be a shoe stuck down there. There is some magical, magnetic property of wet concrete, because my kids could not stay away from it. There were little piles of extra concrete that the mixing truck had dripped here and there between poles, and the kids were all over it. My 8 yr. old son quickly scooped together a pile, inserted a piece of metal rebar, and began to “build” something. He pounded with Dad’s sledgehammer and set the pole for his imaginary barn.

I hope the kids remember this time. I would love to raise my family in this home, on this land, but I don’t know the future. Come what may, I hope the kids tuck away treasured memories of helping their daddy build a house.

septic tankI wouldn’t have thought one could take such pride and joy in a septic system. However, this is a rockin’ septic system, folks! My husband could tell you all the reasons why, but I will not put you to sleep nor cause you to even imagine for a moment the reason one has a septic system. But when the inspectors come out and say, “You did this yourself?” you know it’s good. Actually, at every turn, the inspectors have said that to my husband. One even took a picture of his power trench to show the regulars how it’s done – step it up, a do-it-yourselfer is doing a better job than you.

building a pump houseThis will be the pump house. I never thought about what a pump house was until we started this project. I think I was imagining the old days when people literally had to pump water by hand. The pump house is just a little storage building to protect the water pump and the pipes. The day after this photo, the older kids went back with Dad to finish the concrete for the pump house. They arrived home well after dark, and apparently the kids were an invaluable help. Sorry, I will admit I was a little surprised to hear this. My husband said he could NOT have finished it without them – they were the stir boy and stir girl, and he would have been facing a big glob of half-dried concrete without their tireless effort. When I gave the kids a bath that night, their hair looked gray.

Gathering firewoodIt was not all sweat and labor, however. The kids and I gathered firewood, which they consider “fun,” not “work.” Because the purpose of gathering firewood is to have a campfire – nothin’ better than that! There is no shortage of firewood on the property, especially with all the downed trees which were cleared for the house. It was a quick and light task, and immensely rewarding.

Do your kids love to gather firewood? I don’t know any kids who don’t. The only problems encountered were fighting over choice pieces of wood, or arguing over whose turn it was to push the wheelbarrow. We somehow navigated those bumps without tears.

Fire pitI had no trouble getting helpers to rebuild the fire ring, either. The original fire pit was bulldozed aside to make way for the path to the new pole barn. I’ve mentioned before the ROCK around here? I think the well-drillers went through close to 90 feet of solid rock before hitting dirt. Again, no shortage of rock, and with the purpose of gathering rock being to form a new fire pit, the workers were happy little helpers.

So, the day at the ranch ended with a stunning sunset closely followed by a lovely campfire, complete with the roasting of hotdogs and marshmallows, and even a few campfire songs. Kum-Ba-Yah, anyone? My husband said to me, “I hope we keep having these campfires even after the house is built.”

My Elk Hunt and Shoot


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When I shoot elk, it’s with a camera. There’s a gorgeous herd across the field, at least two hundred of them, that I see everyday (and spy through the binoculars), and of late have been hearing in the early morning and late evening – have you ever heard an elk bugle? Wow, it’s nature’s music. Well, they are currently in “the rut,” and there is great purpose in their frenzy of bugling.

Several days ago, my neighbor let me drive up as far as I could on their property to try to capture the herd. Sorry to say, I do NOT have a camera with a powerful telephoto lens, otherwise you’d be seeing several bulls with enormous racks; as it is, you see specks in a field. I thought about trying to sneak up on the elk to get a closer shot, but these are wise creatures. They were very aware of our presence even from a distance, and stampeded away from us shortly after I snapped this picture.

Elk Herd

I just had the girls with me, and my little darlings were absolutely as excited as I was with the captivating sight. My 6 year old has even mastered an elk call – thanks to Will Primos hunting videos.

The Girls on a Country Fence

We were bewitched by the elk, but the view of this valley from up here was simply enchanting on its own. Our house is one of those little white spots in the distance.
House in the Valley

I’ll use this post as my entry for Sprittibee’s giveaway:

“I’m entering the Fall Five Kodak Printer Give-Away at Sprittibee’s Blog. Kodak and Sprittibee are giving away an EasyShare 5300 printer!”

I would really love to print out all the photos I’ve been accumulating on my computer and begin an album for the family. There’s nothing quite like a collection of photos in your hands that you can flip through and set out on the coffee table.

On My Way Home


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I have three lovely pictures to share with you from my drive home yesterday. First, you’ll see the friendly deer I passed, with the amazing vistas in the background; next is an abandoned bridge stretching across the Crooked River (which the cows still use); and finally, the full moon rising over the hills in front of my house. (Here is a handy Night Sky Calendar from Space.com, if you’d like to know the moon phases.)

Deer in the field

Bridge over Crooked River

Moon rising

The Hunter


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The HunterMy husband (“The Hunter”) just had his first archery kill yesterday. It was special for several reasons. First, he had taken our six year old daughter (“JJ”) with him that morning, since it was her turn. Second, they were hunting on our own property. Lastly, the whole thing turned into a family affair and a great educational experience for all.

I’ve mentioned our 20 acres in Central Oregon where we’re currently building a house. It’s not an enormous piece of land as far as hunting grounds go, but it’s situated in an ideal location for the sport. One end of the terrain drops down to a rimrock cliff which is the natural path of herds of deer and elk that run though here. The other end is bordered by a large canal which makes a nice watering hole, and the other sides of the property are bordered by large acreages. So it works.

The Hunter has been rifle-hunting for years – mostly for elk in Eastern Oregon. Last year, he switched to bow hunting and seems to enjoy the sporting challenge. Since we lived on our property last year at this time, in our travel trailer, we had opportunity to see all the wildlife up close. There was an enormous buck (“Chester”) that came by nearly everyday during the late summer, and The Hunter was out looking for him all during the hunting season, but with no luck.

The night before this hunt, The Hunter had taken our eight year old son (The Scientist) to the property to hunt, and with just two days left of the bow season, he was anxious. The Scientist has his own small bow, and just target shoots for fun – but you can imagine that he really feels like he’s hunting with Daddy. They were hoping that Chester would make an appearance. The hunters saw nothing that evening.

So, the following morning, JJ begged to go with The Hunter, as she had been in tears the day before at not having gone. But The Hunter just wants one child at a time at this point. I’m sure you can understand all the noise made by a six and eight year old poking each other. I was home with the other children and had really forgotten about the morning activity.

My phone rang, and there was a bad connection, but I did hear the word “spike.” Yes, The Hunter and his young huntress had accomplished the mission. Standing in our future master bath, they were getting ready to leave, when along came the buck. The Hunter waited patiently for the deer to change his head-on position, took the shot, and the well-placed arrow shot clean through the animal.

Here’s where it was really neat to have him hunting less than 10 minutes away. I was able to grab the neighbor to come and help, pack up some supplies and the other three kids (and Grandma), and head over. Now all my children are well educated in the gutting, hanging, and skinning of a deer. If we were lost in the wilderness, we’d all survive. :-)

Family Hunt: notice the various expressions…and the proud huntress posing next to her Daddy. The Scientist was so jealous, and on the way to the property, said, “I hope JJ didn’t help Daddy track the deer.” I said, “Honey, you will have your time.”
Family Hunt

Gutting the deer: the kids and I learned what an awful, dreadful, and vile smell is created in this endeavor.
Gutting the deer

Hanging the deer: the old Juniper tree, rope and pole are skillfully used.
Hanging the deer

Skinning the deer: not for the faint of heart, but now we all know the ins and outs of this.
Skinning the deer

Walking deer legsWe all had a good chuckle as The Scientist put the front legs to good use. He strung them up and made some sort of deer puppet…he said he was making deer tracks. I love the creativity of this child.

The deer needs to hang for a few days, then The Hunter will take it to the butcher and we’ll have a freezer full of venison. Dinner last night? Backstrap, of course. According to The Hunter, tradition in the hunting camp calls for the backstrap to be cut off immediately and cooked for dinner, so this coincided well with the fact that the neighbor who helped him was having us over for a BBQ that night.

Much to The Hunter’s delight, I’m now convinced that hunting can be a family activity for us. He likes that the kids are learning not just the sport of hunting, but the entire process, from field to fridge. We know where our food comes from. :-)

Shallowness


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There is a time to hope and pray for shallowness, and I’m facing such a time.

In two hours, the well-driller begins his quest for water on our Central Oregon ranch-to-be. This is the desert, my best beloved (been reading too many Just So Stories), and some of my desert dwelling friends have been known to drill over 700 feet in search of those refreshing underground deposits. Perhaps, great divining was used and he hits the right spot.

We’re off to the property with camera in hand to capture a geyser, we hope. I’ll post pictures later.