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Month: March 2012

Thursday Morning

Thursday Morning

Like most homeschooling mums I often worry that we are not doing ‘enough’.  Our work can come in fits and starts, often at odd times of the day, and certainly doesn’t fit anything that would be recognisable in a school room setting.  Is it possible that we are really achieving?

To add to the worry I’ve decided to pull Neirin out of preschool for a month.  There is nothing wrong with the school or the programme, they are lovely and run a really great programme, but it is a co-operative and so requires a lot of parent support and time.  To put it simply I just don’t have the extra energy right now.  Though it may seem counter intuitive (isn’t it easier without the little one running around causing havoc?) I’m finding right now that getting us to and from preschool, as well as the additional duty days, fund raising activities and extra bits and pieces is a bit too exhausting.

So for the month of April I have two boys in my school room, two different needs to meet.  Whereas Huwyl welcomes quiet reading and long stories, Neirin is in the doing phase, active and, well, a bit pesky.  It will be a challenge to keep all the balls juggling but for right now it feels like what we all need.  Less driving, less in and out of the house and, hopefully, a bit less mummy exhaustion.

But can I give Huwyl enough?  That nagging doubt lingers.  But then I look at some of the photos I’ve snapped of our morning, of all that we’ve fit in between breakfast and lunch and I am reassured.  History, music, art and art history, handwriting, phonics, all of these have been touched upon at some point.  Some for longer than others, but all have been included.

Our day has certainly been different with Neirin in the mix, he is a force of nature not to be ignored!  I’ve been realistic about when we can include him and when we can’t and I think I’ll be orienting our morning more towards activities that can include everyone, leaving our reading for bedtime which Huwyl actually loves.  The one thing I wasn’t willing to compromise on was the All About Spelling lesson, so Neirin had some Starfall and a bit of tv while I worked with Huwyl.  That in itself creates challenges but we are working on it, I’m confident we’ll find our way.

I’m viewing this month as something of a trial run, seeing how it can work with Neirin very fully in the mix.  Can we give Huwyl the 1-1 he needs with a demanding little brother?  Is Neirin going to end up bored and frustrated with my attempts at giving him some ‘preschool’ work to do?  Only time will tell.  I’ve committed to the year with the preschool so he’ll return for May and June; we have family support then so it will be less difficult and hopefully more fun for him too.  But whether he’ll return in September is still up for debate, we’ll see how our time goes over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, he’s definitely livening things up around here,

My own little kitty cat boy.

Simple Science

Simple Science

Who says science has to be complicated?  Not I.  Our science lesson this afternoon consisted of one tray of baking soda, two small cups of white vinegar and two pipettes.

The original idea came from here, I found it on Pinterest (of course).  I didn’t have food colouring as the original idea suggests but I think it would be fun for next time.  This experiment was perfect for a sickly Mummy and two bouncy boys on a cool spring day.  I’ve been ill for the last week and so I’m trying to take life very, very slowly at the moment, looking for ways to simplify and be a bit gentler on us all.

I was surprised by how this little experiment fascinated the boys, they played with it for about half an hour, and of course there was no worry about tipping it straight down the sink!  It is a salient reminder to me that life doesn’t have to be that complicated, when it comes to children particularly, it is the atmosphere that counts.  So I’m remembering that, reminding myself as I think about wellness and creating a peaceful atmosphere at home.

What the boys want and need is simply time.  They don’t really care that much about what but more about with whom.  They’d rather a tray of baking soda and vinegar and some marble run construction with a happy mummy, than a million ‘outside’ activities.  And of course it all returns back to me taking the time to look after myself, to create pockets of time for rest, to minimise driving and rushing and all those transitions that cause stress.  To be at home with them, reading, making, being together; drifting a little and taking time to just look around.

Simple.

Pastel Shades

Pastel Shades

Yesterday I opened up the oil and soft pastels for the boys to have a bit of an experiment with, they loved the deep colours and textures and we spent a happy hour playing as the afternoon sunshine spilled over us.  Huwyl asked me how oil pastels are made, when I told him I don’t know he said “I don’t know either, that’s what makes it so interesting!”

I just love the way his mind works.

Good Neighbours

Good Neighbours

Since we bought this land we’ve often commented on how lucky we are to have such nice neighbours.  Perhaps it is because we live in the country now, perhaps it is because they were all really pleased to see us clearing up this long neglected place, or perhaps (as my Dad asserts) we are just really lucky.  I actually think it is the latter.

On Saturday we had the chance to meet our down-the-road-a-bit neighbours who have farmed there for over 30 years.  They showed us around their lovely place and let us all meet their guard llama and their beautiful flock of sheep, including all of the new lambs who met us warily and were guarded over by protective mamas.

After admiring our neighbour’s farm we were invited in to warm up with hot drinks by the fire.  We chatted like old friends until it was time to drag ourselves away, our arms full of honey and eggs, kindly gifted by our new friends.   I was struck by the generosity we have encountered from all our neighbours, digging us out when our tractor was stuck, inviting us round for a fabulous home cooked meal, donating water before our well was on, offers of help haying, post hole digging…the list goes on.

I hope one day to be able to repay our little community for their kind welcome (something in a bbq I’m thinking might go down well) but in the mean time I bask in the feeling of belonging that increases with each passing week.

And for anyone who can’t quite get enough of the sheepy baa lamb love (let’s face it, that’s all of us),

One day we’ll have some of these little guys in our own fields,  but for now I’ll settle for visiting with friends.

Treats

Treats

Ostara is the perfect excuse for this,

March has brought us incredible weather, but also quite a lot of sickness, so this little cooking session was all we could manage for Ostara this year.  Didn’t hear any complaints from my family though.  Hoping everyone enjoyed the arrival of spring this year, for the first time since I moved to Canada there is no snow, instead we had temperatures of 28C!

Evening Walk

Evening Walk

The ‘summer’ weather we’ve been experiencing this week has been simply stunning.  The sunshine, the warmth, that uplifted feeling you get when the days seem to last forever and the possibilities are endless.  Last night Stephen came home early (6pm!) which meant time for a family dinner and an evening walk.  Despite the soggy ground (apparently it is actually still spring!) it was sheer bliss.

The sheer luxury of walking our own land, free as you like, will never wear off.  The beauty of the earth, even with soggy puddles and crazy mucky boys/dogs/chickens running around, lifts my spirit and gives me a feeling of life and of belonging.  As much as this place belongs to us, so we belong to it; the magic of that relationship will take many years to understand.

There is something else I never tire of,

That sky, all 95 acres of it.

 

Return of the Chicken Assassin

Return of the Chicken Assassin

As some of you might remember, I’ve faced challenges in the past when trying to despatch a chicken. On the plus side, I discovered what I suspect to be a unique ability as an avian chiropractor. On the down side, recently my two cockerels have been getting rather…cocky. The poor skinny girls have been getting more attention than the only pretty wife at a swingers party and I must say that after a long winter locked up together, they’re looking rather the worse for it.

So with their condition deteriorating faster than the chances of a Slovakian foreign exchange student getting out of a New York nightclub with all their money, definitive action had to be taken and a light spinal adjustment wasn’t going to be sufficient this time. I sharpened my small hatchet with a knife sharpener, which did a fairly poor job but gave it just enough edge to not risk bouncing and set out to catch a chicken. With hindsight, I’d have preferred something along the same lines as classic Conan (circa 1982), but that would have opened me up to a whole side-story about horny helmets, men in leather jerkins and big choppers that I just don’t want to get into.

The target of my murderous intention was Custard, an evil natured bastard at the best of times. Of the two cockerels, he had it coming for a few simple reasons:

  • Whereas Harvey sounds like Axel Rose gargling bleach after an all-night sound off against Rage Against The Machine, Custard is loud and proud and a very early riser
  • He’s simply wrong. Like a Belgian biker in heeled red leather boots wrong
  • He literally pecks the hand that feeds (although in fairness I think he’s still smarting that I named him Custard)

Determined and resolute in my choice of bird to terminate and armed with only my embarrassingly small axe and an old beach towel, I approached the coop. I’d have liked to have been as fleet and silent as a ninja assassin but given our house is currently surrounded by an unbroken quagmire of thick, oozing mud, my advance was more squelchy than stealthy. Custard heard me coming and I think he must have suspected my intentions weren’t to bring berries and sing a song about chickens roaming free.

After the second time around the coop and failing to do anything except caper and flap my beach towel like a desperate German at 6AM after discovering the Belgians had beaten him to the pool, I was caked in mud up to my knees and any remorse I felt for wanting to kill Custard had evaporated. My muttering had changed from a gentle “Come on Custard, I just want to be friends, it won’t hurt, promise” to something like “Arrrrgh, get here you fucking tw*t of a chicken, I’m going to chop your sodding head off and laugh.”

Needless to say, my words of encouragement failed to entice Custard into my warm embrace and so by lap five, I stopped to engage my brain which, up to that point, had been alarmingly absent. Rather than keep chasing the panicked bird, I had a Liberace moment and realised that it was far smarter to let the cock come to me. It didn’t take too long for Custard to seize on my apparent decision to give up the pursuit and flee for the safety of his coop. Unfortunately for him, at that point he had no where else to run.

The beach towel was used to wrap and stop him panicking too much and I took him away from the sight of the other chickens. I’m not sure if they have much of a memory, but the vision of their main man being done in by a muddy, red-faced, swearing hobby farmer was probably an image that would remain with anyone for a long, long time. Then, for the sobering bit.

In the end, it was over quite quickly. I said a few words, stroked his head a few times to settle him down and expose his neck. Then, I let the axe drop. The first blow pretty much did the job, although it took two more quick strikes to remove it all. Certainly it would have been easier with two people and a Conan-sized blade but I’m happy at least to know he did not needlessly suffer.

Once it was done, I let the body drain and stop kicking which was odd and unnerving, although probably not as alarming as seeing it running around a muddy field had I not wrapped it up first. Overall, the experience wasn’t as traumatic as I’d expected but certainly isn’t something I’d want to do often. For the meat birds we’re planning on raising, I think the $3.50 processing fee might be well worth the expense. Unless Arnie happens to have a spare axe that is.

Six Egg Sunday

Six Egg Sunday

Sunday was a funny day, a combination of industry and relaxation, beauty and, well, death.  Huwyl collected the eggs for both Saturday and Sunday so we had a lovely bundle, I never seem to get tired of the sight of fresh eggs they are always beautiful to me.  This kicked things off well, as we worked on various projects throughout the day.  Stephen painted the kitchen and part of the living room in my all time favourite colour (yay!) and Huwyl and I worked on cleaning our windows, no small task in itself.

This spring weather seems to have brought out the desire to get things sorted, there are tasks overdue that we are now ready to complete as the warm breezes flow in through open windows.  So yesterday the kitchen went from unfinished to finished, the living room is also partially complete and both look beautiful.  It is also nice to be able to see out of windows free from muddy paw prints!

There was another task hanging over us, however, a less pleasing one to say the least.  One of our roosters (Custard) had become more and more agressive as the months have ticked by and, now the temperatures are warming, it was time for him to go.  We’d put it off for a couple of weekends but yesterday was the day.

Neither Stephen nor I relished the task but we knew it was the right decision, two cockerels and three hens  is not a good ratio and the girls are looking pretty beaten up.  Plus the thought of one of the children being mauled by an aggressive chicken was enough to steel our will.  So to the chopping block he went, literally.

While I didn’t do the actual killing (or harvesting as it is euphemistically known) I did pluck and have a go at butchering.  My verdict?  Plucking is fine, though wing feathers are a bugger, but butchering was not my favourite thing to do.  It was harder than I thought and quite stressful as I was worried about getting it wrong and spoiling the meat.  The thought of killing an animal and then not even being able to use the meat did not sit well with me; if we didn’t at least eat him weren’t we just really bad people?  It makes sense in my head anyway.

With a few false starts and help from Stephen, we got the carcass dressed and in the stock pot, phew.  I’m currently on my second batch of stock (which included the ‘pluck’ for extra nutrition) and find myself slightly traumatised but guilt free.  I hope that over time I’ll become a little immune to the butchering part, as I gain proficiency and skill, but I also hope never to lose the sense of significance that choosing the death of another creature brings.

It is the nature of farming I know, we bring things to life and then we end them for our own benefit; in between we try to give them the best life possible but those are the bare facts.  Soon we’ll be bringing boxes of chicks and some very cute piglets onto the farm, some will live here for a few years as layers or breeders, some will have a shorter season and will indeed end up on our plates.  But knowing this, being truly present for the cycle of life and death, gives me a greater reverence for the food we eat and the animals we take into our care.  I hope we can give them a good life while they are here.

Each day sees the new season spreading out further, turning snow to water and warming the earth.  As I watch the buds open and as we add baby animals to the fold, I am aware of their future ending, but that is the way of things and doesn’t stop me enjoying the wonder of it all while I can.  Indeed I think the fact that it will be gone one day makes it all the more important to treasure and enjoy now.  Isn’t that what spring is all about?