through the tomatillo jungle... beyond the corn forest...

Bopping around the garden is my favorite way to end the day this time of year. The kids wiggle and play and dig, the grownups talk and unwind, we munch on whatever there is to munch on, and when we head inside for bed it's with a happy sigh. Notes from this week...

:: I want to grow these cabbages until the end of time. They are perfect, tiny little cabbages, just 1 lb each, good for a pot of soup or a batch of cole slaw without having a pesky half-head of cabbage leftover in the crisper, which you have to stare at guiltily every time you open the fridge because you just can't figure out what to do with it. Or maybe that's just me.

:: Ground cherries. GROUND CHERRIES. How have I never heard of these before?? They look like tomatillos, but smaller. The husks turn brown when they're ripe, and you can pop the fruit right into your mouth whenever the mood strikes... which is frequently. They're tart-sweet and wonderful. I'm dying to bake with some, but I only planted 3 bushes and that's turned out to be not enough just for garden munching. I read about them in Little Heathens and about jumped out of my pants when I saw them in the Baker Creek catalog. Next time, I'm thinking, like, a hedgerow.

:: We have harvested (and eaten) about half of our La Ratte potatoes. They are tiny and yummy and so so fun to dig up. Tonight we had a wonderful little vegetable soup that used up onion, garlic, thyme, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes from the garden. I love the thrill this time of year of running out to the garden with bare feet while the onions are sizzling in the pot to grab a fat onion or a handful of parsley.

:: Next time...no lawn between beds. R can't mow without hacking everything to pieces, so it's going to jungle in there. I have been loving The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture lately and have all kinds of visions for next time, like mulched paths and keyhole beds.

The season is starting to wind down for us up north, but I am looking forward to keeping this little space going, hopefully until the ground freezes, with some more cool-weather crops.


strawberry cream cake + happy birthday to the little man.

Oh, you guys. You need this cake in your life. I hereby resolve to make this cake once every summer until I die. Simple, spongy, flavorful vanilla cake, fresh strawberry halves with more minced strawberries and stovetop-reduced juices hidden inside, and whipped cream/cream cheese/vanilla bean frosting... sigh. It's so good.

The little man is 1 today. He is pulling himself up, getting into everything (especially his sister's toys), cutting more teeth, and being true to his serious little self. I can't believe it's already been a year. How did this happen?


garlic harvest

I didn't plan on harvesting garlic today, but, well, the baby was sleeping, the weather was good, and we all needed to get outside. Out came the gloves, out came the digging fork, and out came the garlic! The haul was not quite as good as I'd hoped for...I put off the planting for too long last year and ended up with some half-rotten seed/cloves at planting time. One variety didn't sprout at all in the spring, but most of the other two pulled through and turned into some beautiful, big, fat heads of gloriously stinky garlic. Now it is emitting all of its glorious stinkiness in our garage until it's done curing (4-6 weeks from now). I love growing garlic. It's really one of the easiest things you can grow...it just takes thinking ahead.


drying it up

The time has come, my dear Max. He's gonna be 1 (one!) next month, and the month after that my parents are coming for a visit. They asked if we'd want to go on vacation while they're here. You know, by ourselves. Without kids. ALONE.


So this kid's gotta wean. It's a new thing for me... Lizzy nursed for 6 weeks and Maren nursed for 10 months, and both were happy to stop without any fanfare whatsoever. This guy, though? It's gonna be rough.

In addition to cutting out some feedings, I've started drinking a hot cup of sage-parsley-yarrow tea three times daily. Those are the herbs that (are supposed to) dry up milk supply. To make it, I pick a fat bouquet of sage, parsley, and yarrow from the garden. The yarrow is optional; it would be perfectly fine with sage and parsley from the grocery store. I like to stick everything in my dehydrator for an hour or so just to wilt the herbs a bit, but it's not necessary. Alternatively, just leave the herbs on the counter for a few hours. (The reason for this step is that wilted or dried herbs make a more potent brew than just-picked herbs.)

After everything's nicely wilted, I chop it all up and put it in a saucepan with 6 cups of cold water. Cover, then bring it slowly to a boil over medium heat. Once it's boiling, turn off the stove and let it sit for a few hours. Strain and refrigerate. Three times a day, heat up a cup and sip away. I'm not gonna lie, it isn't tasty, but a little honey works wonders.

Anybody have any other awesome tips for weaning a baby?


in the garden

It's explosion time! We wait and wait and wait for the weather to get good, and boy howdy, when it's good, it's good. Everything is finally waking up...blossoming...setting fruit and flower...it's such a pretty thing.

I'm trying out straw as mulch on the potatoes this year. High hopes for a simplified harvest. I just noticed today that the peas are coming in. Glory be! The herb bed is my favorite spot by far. I have dreams of a someday-garden with giant swaths of chamomile and lemon balm and all the zillions of different kinds of basils. The carrots are coming in nicely, right along with the weeds (hagulp). The three plants behind the carrots are ground cherries, which I have read about but never tasted. Here's hoping. I got the broccoli and cabbage seedlings mixed up, so I haven't known which was which until now -- little heads starting to form on each, finally revealing their true factions (ha! I just finished reading Divergent). I'm a first-time corn grower this year. Looking forward to some stalk-to-pot sprints later in the summer. Maren's marigolds are getting ready to blossom. We grew them from seed -- her special choice from the seed catalog this year -- and she is going to hit the moon when it happens. The zucchini are getting ready to flower, too. I know I'll shake my head at their abundance before long. 

And flowers. Never enough flowers.


our 1st grade curriculum

Maren took this picture. I love it.

I got really inspired yesterday and whipped out all of the required paperwork for this year's homeschooling adventures -- typed, printed, addressed, stamped, sent, DONE. Our state is one of the stricter states as far as homeschooling law goes. They want to know your basic plan ahead of time, which annoys me, and obviously you could just fudge it, but secretly I'm kind of glad that I had to articulate it all. It makes me feel more committed. (Remind me of this sentiment in, I dunno, six months.)

So here's what we're using for 1st grade stuff:

English Language
Handwriting Without Tears for handwriting and minimal grammar. I LOVE it. The lessons are short, totally do-able, and fun. And I like the way they use simple double lines instead of the usual two-lines-with-a-dotted-middle-line thing. We do HWT every day, which takes about 15 minutes, and the girls always enjoy it. I may add in First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind later on if I feel like Lizzy is ready for it.

All About Spelling for, well, spelling. I've read a lot of positive reviews about this program. I'm a pretty darn good speller myself, but I couldn't tell you a single rule beyond I before E except after C to save my life. We'll probably do this every day.

Singapore Math 1A, Standards Edition. I like it a lot so far. Lots of reviewers say that the teacher's manual isn't necessary, but I am clinging to it like it's a life boat in the open ocean. The TM also has a ton of ideas for extra enrichment activities and simple games to reinforce the concept; to me, that alone is worth the (pretty low) price. Math is every day, usually first thing.

The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times and The Story of the World, Activity Book 1. The first is a read-aloud book where each chapter explains and imagines, in simple language, different periods in world history. The layout is mostly chronological, beginning with early nomads and ending with the fall of the Roman empire. So, once a week, we read a chapter together, find some cool library books, and do some of the activities and worksheets from the activity book. This week we colored a map of the fertile crescent and read some picture books about a cave boy and wooly mammoths. Next week we get to make a model of the Nile. Cool?! History is on Mondays and Wednesdays.

DK First Animal Encyclopedia and DK First Human Body Encyclopedia are our main science texts. Every week we read a double-page spread from one of these books (we've started with animals), then  get more books on that specific animal or topic at the library. We love it. Science is on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Our schedule is pretty simple. We have "learning time" (she doesn't like calling it "school") Monday through Thursday mornings. Fridays are off, unless there's some fun craft or small catch-up thing we need or want to do. We go for three weeks, then have one week off, year-round. At least, that's the plan.

When the girls wake up, they get a few minutes to hang out before breakfast, then they do their chores immediately (I've found that the days I let them play in the mornings are always the worst days, which makes me sad...they just start fighting and being snotty and it's just better for everyone that we get the work done first thing). As soon as chores are done, it's learning time. So far, we can get all the formal stuff done in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Just like everyone else, informal learning is happening all the time -- like the dead baby bird we found in the garden tonight, or dance class, or the frogs on our walk today... anyway, there's our schedule.

I hope this is helpful for someone out there reading along. I feel like homeschooling is really exploding and is becoming not quite so outlandish or, well, weird anymore. Or maybe that's just my anxiety talking. Whatever the case, I can tell you that I haven't had one single grocery store clerk or church member or random passerby give me one solitary rude, disdainful, or even questioning comment. More often, it's more like, "REALLY?? Can you tell me how you're doing it, 'cause I've been thinking about it, too..."


serious boy.

This boy has been in bed for two hours and editing these pictures just makes me want to go get him up and nibble his cheeks. He is growing up so fast. Still not crawling (he is 10 months), but trying oh so hard and getting oh so mad when he can't reach what he wants (which is e v e r y t h i n g).

I have been geeking out about:

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 4 -- there's still time to join in, but videos are due by June 10th. I've looked through the music but haven't gotten up the courage to sing to the computer in a room by myself. Isn't that funny?

Aquaponic Gardening. I have this book on order at the library and I am looking forward to having my mind melted.

Marion Cunningham's Custard-Filled Cornbread. Lizzy and I made some to go with our black bean chili tonight, and it. was. magical.

Aimee's house. I love her clean, uncluttered, vintage style. I also love bright/happy/clutter-ish vintage style, but when it comes to my own house and clutter, I can't deal. Clean surfaces are my happy place (thanks, Mom).

Classical education. It's our road, and I'm so happy/relieved to have finally settled. More on that to come.