What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bringing in the Hay


We have been fortunate to be able to rent out our fields to two local farmers since moving here.  We haven't had the resources (equipment) to utilize the fields ourselves and the rent money we have earned has been used to help pay our property taxes.  Well, for one farmer in particular...it was hard to actually get the rent money.  The guy is great- we love him- but we had to think more creatively about how both parties could benefit from the arrangement.  Since we now have quite the 'herd' of winter hay-eating animals (har har), we thought, instead of CASH, we could get 'paid' in our own hay.  Farmer does the work on second cutting and we get as much hay as we need for the winter.

It worked out remarkably well this year and I hope that we can continue this sort of arrangement in the future.

Matt doesn't have time with his job to do the field work and especially in the small windows of time it needs to be done (no rain!).  We don't have the money to buy a whole bunch of haying equipment.  But we do have animals that need it.  I had to scrape the nooks and crannies to find money to cover the property taxes (that's what happens when you change the budget!) but I was able to do it.  So- we were helped and the farmer was helped.  Sweat equity is a bit easier to give than a check that you just can't afford to write.

They even brought over their hay elevator for us to get the square bales up in the hay mow easily.

Andrew was a huge help in that department.  I went out and watched him for a bit- somewhat taken aback at the boy who was doing a man's job.  He emptied two hay wagons worth of hay and put them on the elevator while Matt took them from there to their winter home in the haymow.

When did that little bitty cowboy grow up to be such an able-bodied farmhand?

Review~ Fix It! Grammar : The Nose Tree

Grammar.  The mere mention of it either gets you all excited to diagram sentences or makes you curl up in the fetal position and suck your thumb.  I have never met a lukewarm grammarian.  When I was in school, I learned very little grammar~if anything.  What I got was 'caught' by the hours I would sit with my nose in a book.  To me, a sentence either looks/feels/sounds right or it doesn't.  (And you can imagine how stressed I am when writing a review for a grammar program- is my grammar correct?!?)  Unfortunately, when teaching my own children the grammar of language, the "That is wrong because it sounds wrong" approach is not quite going to cut it.  I was happy to be given the opportunity to review a gentle grammar program that uses literature as a basis for teaching... the Fix-It! Grammar series put out by the Institute for Excellence in Writing (or IEW for short).

We reviewed both the teacher's manual and student text of Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree, the first book (and level one) in the series. I say that the Fix-It! Grammar series is a gentle approach to learning grammar because it doesn't involve strenuous or time-consuming grammar lessons each day.  Rather, it breaks the story down into sentences to be worked through each day.  That's right- a sentence...a day.  In the beginning of the week there is a LEARN IT lesson (which includes different grammatical rules, parts of speech, punctuation and language concepts.  And then each day of the week, the student is instructed to fix the vocabulary, punctuation, and grammatical errors that they learned about in the lesson using the sentence from the literature.  As the lessons progress, the story unfolds.  Each days' work is copied into a separate notebook which means the text is non-consumable and can be used with any up and coming students of the house in the future.

The Fix-It! Grammar series offer six separate units (with both student texts and teachers' manuals being offered) based on six different books:   Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1], Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] , Fix It! Grammar: Frog Prince, or Just Deserts [Book 3], Fix It! Grammar: Little Mermaid [Book 4], and Fix It! Grammar: Chanticleer [Book 5].    The age range is from 3rd grade and up.  I assumed, because I had done very little 'official grammar' that Corynn would be at the first level but I discovered I have done more work on grammar with her than I thought- she could very easily have progressed to a higher level.  For those people who actually take the time to do it (duh, Rebecca!) The Institute for Excellence in Writing has offered a placement test to help parents to determine what book would best profit their students' ability level.
Each spiral-bound book in the series provides 33 weeks of pleasant grammar instruction and editing practice while also introducing many new vocabulary words and working through an interesting piece of literature.   The student text contains within it a very informative glossary and some removable grammar flashcards on heavy-duty cardstock to use within the lesson and for review.

If you have always thought grammar would be a tedious subject to teach (and learn) then I would highly suggest you check these out!  I believe they would make even the most hesitant grammar student to flourish.

The cost:
Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher Manual) - 228 pages - $19.00
Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book)  - 126 pages - $15.00

Where to find IEW: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/excellenceinwriting
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iew 
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/iewriting 
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Iewriting/posts 
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/iewtv 
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/iewtv 

More reviews:
Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Easing In

The education of these, my children, has taken a different path this year than in previous ones.  

I struggled with all the things that must be done in all of the many areas of life that needed doing this summer without any additional learning requirements... so I have spent many moments wondering how it would all flow when homeschooling had to begin for the year- or if I would even survive.  Home educating the way that I have has required many long hours every day- how would I add those hours to an already full day of canning, cheese making, laundry and garden chores?  As overwhelmed as I already felt, I didn't want to be the frazzled woman who tried in vain to get everything done mediocrely, all the while becoming stressed and short-tempered and unlovely to the ones around me.  I know, as any honest woman knows, that one can't do it all.  But I also knew 'it all' was important.  

My thoughts would turn to this throughout the day, churning around in my mind how to accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished- and to do so WELL.  In a lovely way.  In a gracious way.  In a joyous way.  I realized two things.

1) I don't want to just survive, I want to thrive.  I want the things that I do (and how I do them) to show exude joy and not chaos...peace and not stress.


2) I realized that one of the most important lessons to teach my children about education is that home education is a pleasure.  If I raise scholars who became so despite their own educational experience and refuse to homeschool, then I have failed.  If I raise godly men and women who remember a frazzled and overwhelmed mother who struggled to meet their educational needs and so choose not to homeschool themselves, then it was I who convinced them that home education is too much of a pain, a challenge, and not worth the effort.  If I-as an unlovely and stressed out, stretched-too-thin mother-raise children who hated their own experiences homeschooling, then I have failed at home education.

I knew that something must change.  I can't do it all.  But the important things I want to do- and I want to do them well.

In previous years I would gather supplies in advance...plan a fun little 'first day of school' treat and then dive right into the school year.

This year, for my childrens' sanity and my own, I made the decision that while the garden still grows, the warm winds beckon and the tasks loom greatly ahead of me, we will gently ease into the school year.  We have been doing school for several weeks now...but the rule is we are done by 12:30 and not a minute more.  This leaves the afternoons for me to accomplish the tasks that seem always before me.  When frost finally arrives (and I have reached the point of hoping for it to come!) and the garden can be tucked in for a long winters' nap, well, then we can dive right into education and fill our days with learning and be more vigorous in our studies. 

For now, though, the mornings hold little bits- of reading, science, history, math and spelling.  A toe-dipping into the school year, if you will.  

A gentle easing in- and it has been quite lovely.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Little One

A full week after writing "I hope to chat more here next week" last Friday, I pop my head back into this happy place of mine on the web.  Not exactly more chatty this week, was it?  But the week was full and busy and...being lived.

Matt's brother John (his twin, in fact) and his wife Holly welcomed a new wee one into their family yesterday.  My children, of course, have been anticipating the day and the gender as much as pretty much everyone else.  Yesterday, I asked them what they thought Aunt Holly would be having.  The overall consensus was that the boys wanted a boy, the girls wanted a girl.  (Naturally.)

Mama:  "Soooo....what do you think Aunt Holly is going to have today?  A boy or a girl?"
 Judah: "I think it is a boy."
Adele':  "I think both."


Then, as if to clarify, she said... "Or maybe it will be a boy OR a girl."

I should hope so!

Come to find out- it WAS a boy or a girl.  Specifically, a girl.  And she MAY have a name as beautiful as her...in fact, the name was on my own list!  They haven't decided 100% so I had better not say, but I am hoping it is what they were thinking because, well, I am a bit partial to it!  ;-)

I'll let you know soon.  And you'll certainly be seeing more of her here...I practically begged to do some newborn shots of her.  ;-)

I hope that maybe having a little sliver of a thing just over the hill from me, I can satisfy that baby itch that I seem to constantly have.     It's a terminal condition in my case, I am afraid.

(A note on the hat:   Little Lamb hat pattern found here.  I made the hat first without the ears.  I wanted the inner ear color to be gender specific so I waited to find out whether it was a boy or girl before making the ears.  Had it been a boy, the inner ear would have been a light gray. 

 The first one I made looked impossibly small so I ripped it out.  The second one I made would have fit a 2 year old...ripped it out again.  The third and final one I made seemed the appropriate size so I kept it but, as is often the case with newborns...it was too big still.  I should have kept my first attempt knowing that most newborns ARE impossibly small!)

Friday, September 19, 2014


lemon poppy and calendula muffins with fried cheese slices for breakfast

mozzerella, red pepper, garlic dill and habanero homemade cheeses.
four little white pumpkins- how did the little plant know we needed four?

Andrew made me lavender swags for my windows.  He knows the way to his Mama's heart.

I have decided that September is my least favorite month of the year.

Just the very moment the garden goes from gently tossing you a few veggies for the dinner table to throwing buckets of harvestable food at you every day that must be dealt with before it is ruined, the busyness of home education must begin.  Then one must begin planning, buying books, beginning the school year, creating new routines and bringing back into structure the four young, boundless, carefree waifs running around barefoot all day and basking in the vast, unconstrained days of summer.

In addition, the fog-filled mornings and darkened evenings become so crisp that children start looking in vain for the sweaters and pants you packed up when you unearthed the shorts and tanktops way back in spring.  So just when the garden and schooling is starting to make you feel overwhelmed- you have to do the annual summer/winter clothing switcheroo too.

It's like WHAM.  A million things to do all at once.  And not JUST once- but a million things to do pile up all at once...EVERY SINGLE DAY.

On top of it all, Matt decided to leave me (for his job) and spent the whole of this week out of town.  So all chores- including milking a cow before dawn and again at dusk- were on my heavily burdened shoulders as well.

That was my week this week.

I'd rank myself right up there with Wonder Woman if I didn't know intimately how frazzled and exhausted I found myself every night.  I am pretty sure Wonder Woman never felt frazzled or exhausted.  But I was.  Boy, was I.

I just wanted to pop on here to say a hearty 'hullo' before the week passes me by entirely.  Next week I hope to chat more often.  And maybe take a pretty little picture or two.

 I am determined to enjoy the last little bit of September; the last of the vine ripened tomatoes plucked and plunked into open-bird mouths, the last of the vibrant flowers filling vases in every nook and cranny of the house, the last of the grocery-shopping-in-the-garden trips, the last of the wall of sunflowers brightening my view at the clothesline when I hang out laundry, the last of my walks from circle garden to cutting garden to sunflower patch with harvest basket dangling from my arm and scissors in hand to cut as many lovely blooms as the basket will fit and yes, the last of the fresh zucchini and cucumbers that I ate my fill of by August.

I am determined to enjoy these last days of September, no matter how many overwhelming things to add to my to-do list they bring with them because, soon enough, frost will be here and these ridiculously busy September days will be less busy...but also less colorful, less cheerful, less fruitful, less abundant, less lovely and less delicious.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Beautiful orange and red bulbs on shriveled brown naked stalks.   That is essentially the state of my tomato beds.  And the state of my living room is something like this: beautiful tomatoes of all different stages of development sitting upon crisp white window panes in order to bask in the ripening sun.

(This is what happens when one sends young children out to harvest RIPE tomatoes.)

Upon the advice of several friends and the ease with which the task is accomplished, I've decided to can more whole tomatoes in jars this year and see how I like it.  Previously, I would make a few batches of salsa and sauce the rest of the tomato harvest.  Canning whole tomatoes is much easier than either of those and really just consists of washing the fruit, cutting off the bad spots/stem, shoving them in jars and giving them a nice hot bath.

Spaghetti sauce is a bit more time consuming...there is cutting the tomatoes into smallish chunks, putting them through the food strainer, preparing seasonings/onions/peppers, boiling it all down for hours, adding store-bought tomato paste to thicken and then water-bathing the jars.

Canning whole tomatoes is much easier and faster in the short run.  But will it be as easy and fast when dinner is fast approaching and I have 20 minutes to get a pizza in the oven or spaghetti on the table?  

That has yet to be determined.

Home canned spaghetti sauce has always been one of those homemade 'convenience foods' and I certainly don't want to lose that!

One thing I know for sure- canning whole tomatoes requires MANY more canning jars and much more space for storage.  I have completely filled my whole canning cupboard at this point.  The bottom shelf in my kitchen is also full.  The top shelf can't be used for full jars because it becomes too heavy and begins to distort.  So I have reached the point that always comes around this time where I must be creative with storage.

Bookcases?  On the stairs?  Under beds?  On our nightstands?  

One never knows what may happen when one gets desperate.