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Month: July 2013

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

On Friday afternoon our neighbour came knocking to tell Stephen it was time to make the hay.  He had cut it the night before and now it was time to rake and windrow ready for baling; there was no time to waste and Stephen got right to it.

I don’t know if I ever really understood the phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ until this summer, in the past I always saw it more as a metaphor but  not now, oh no indeed.  This year has been a year of cool temperatures and rain, rain, rain.  Rain that stopped everything from growing as it should, rain that dampened the earth making it impossible to get the tractors into the fields, rain that poured endlessly down on our precious hay risking flattening and rotting.  This summer we have been holding our breath for the right time, for the sunshine to come and to stay.

hay-9544 hay-9549 hay-9556hay-9551After feverish weather watching we knew this week was our chance, the weather was clear and dry and forecast gave us four days of good temperatures, no humidity and blessed sunshine.  The chaps got to work and kept going until the job was done, there was no time to waste and that hay is a precious commodity to us, it will feed our cows through the winter and having enough is crucial.  Our knowledgable neighbour (and friend) had told us that the hay was good for fodder this year, in fact it was great, our crop was looking good but the weather has been against us at every turn.

hay-9552hay-9558 hay-9561 hay-9562But finally the sun shone, the breezes blew and the hay was cut.  It fell in beautiful swathes, green and fresh, drying quickly under the cobalt summer sky; Stephen took the the raking like a pro, he worked for hour after hour until it was done, ready for baling on Saturday.  When the baling was done, each heavy disc of green falling gracefully and silently from the back of the machine, we were finally able to take a breath.   After weeks of worry we could relax a little knowing that this crucial crop will soon be under cover, that it had been saved from the downpours, that our cows will eat well this winter.

There is still hay to take, pastures that need cutting back, hay that will be perfect for bedding our animals on until the spring grasses return again.  We may even get a precious second cut it we are lucky and the weather co-operates.  But for now the main crop, the crop that will sustain our animals through the cold and snowy months, that will smell and taste of sunshine and flowers even in the depths of winter, is sitting solidly in our bottom field.  Like monoliths of grass, symbols of future prosperity and security.

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On Sunday it rained all day.

Probiotic Popsicles

Probiotic Popsicles

I can be found over at Playful Learning today with recipes for delicious probiotic popsicles (lollies to those of use born on the other side of the pond!), a perfect and healthy summer snack.

The boys really love scoffing these, especially those with the vanilla yoghurt tip!  I served the leftovers as a smoothie with a dollop of yoghurt and I have literally never seen Neirin inhale anything that fast!

So head on over and let me know what you think of the recipes, and don’t forget that they go perfectly with my home made energy bars too.

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Happy eating!

Homemade Lara Bar

Homemade Lara Bar

Though I make this treat for the boys all year round, in the summer there is nothing better than a big tray of home made energy bar for us all to snack on.  It’s cold, sweet and delicious and requires no oven time at all!  I feel good knowing that the boys are snacking on nutrient dense foods and they feel good about the chocolate chips.  Win-win!

I’ll provide the smaller scale recipe here but I like to double it as it takes the same amount of time to make but twice the time to eat!  This goes perfectly with a delicious smoothy or a plate of freshly chopped fruit with lemon and honey drizzled over it.

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All the ingredients in this bar are packed full of nutrition.  The nuts and seeds and full of healthy fats and nutrients, the chia seeds are a wonderful source of omegas and the coconut oil is the perfect saturated fat.  The natural sweeteners give the taste of a treat without all the hazards of processed sugar, so blood sugar gets a boost without being accompanied by additives or spiking blood sugar.  This is a very sweet treat though, so only a small square (or two) at a time is needed.

Homemade Energy Bar

1 cup Raw Almonds (You can also use Cashews)

1/4 cup of Sunflower Seeds

1/4 cup of Pumpkin Seeds

1 tblespn of Chia Seeds (these are packed with omegas and super healthy)

1 cup of Medjool Dates without the pits

1-2 teaspoons of Vanilla Essence

1 tblespn on Coconut Oil

1 tblespn of Almond Butter

1 tblespn of Raw Honey (You could also use Agave or Maple Syrup)

1/2 cup Dark Chocolate drops

First add nuts and seeds to your food processor and grind until they are a meal (gravelly texture), add the dates one at a time (don’t forget to remove the pits!).  Then add the rest of your ingredients one at a time gauging the texture, if it is too dry add a bit more honey or another date to make it stick together. Add the  chocolate drops right and the end and mix as little as you can to avoid melting.  Then spread mixture into an 8 x 8 pan, at this point I cut the mix into squares before popping in the freezer to set.

This whole thing takes only 5 minutes to put together, perfect for a hot summer day or even a cool summer evening with a cup of peppermint tea watching the sun go down.  Right, I’m off to put the kettle on!

 

8 Years Boy

8 Years Boy

My beloved boy, 8 times round the sun we’ve gone, 8 years you’ve lived beside us.  I can’t imagine life without you.

8 years boy-9377 8 years boy-9391 8 years boy-9394You are full of beans and curiosity, you never walk when you could gallop, you are my little comet zooming through life.

8 years boy-9411 8 years boy-9413 8 years boy-9423You are strong and confident, kind to animals and little people, you are infectiously friendly to everyone you meet.

8 years boy-9427 8 years boy-9443 8 years boy-9160You make me laugh every day; your mind is so full and alive I don’t know how you keep your head on!  You are loved and liked by so many people, your desire to bring happiness to others shines out of your beautiful smile.

8 years boy-9172Happy Birthday my beautiful, silly, hilarious, clever, sweet, loving, crazy, noisy, imaginative, creative, galloping, loving and wonderful 8 years boy.

When Only A Scone Will Do

When Only A Scone Will Do

There are some days when a scone and only a scone, is the very thing you need to most.  A scone slathered in yellow butter, freshly made jam and a good dollop of thick, cloud like cream.  For those days when you need to cope with the heat, or the cold, or the rain or the…air?  On those days accept no substitutes.

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Anyone who knows me knows I am a fan of scones, but really who isn’t?  They are light yet substantial, flavourful yet a perfect carrier for jam and cream; they are indeed the moist morsel of choice on a hot summer’s day.  Plus they take like 5 minutes to knock up, which doesn’t hurt.

The jam I slathered liberally all over my scone is one I made Friday last.  It was a hot, hot day that had been mostly spent at the park with friends but I knew that we would have few chances of strawberry picking in the days ahead so we took our chances and picked our punnets full.  The same soggy weather that has been crippling our garden has been having adverse affects on the strawberry harvest too.  Most of the berries were squishy to say the least but we managed to find enough for a jam fiesta, a good thing too as we have some major jam monsters in our household who will not be sated by apricot, oh no indeed.

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Yes they look cute but don’t be fooled, they’ll eat you out of jammy house and home then move on to the next place without a backward glance.  Mercenary I tell you.  Cute but mercenary.

Luckily I do love to make jam and this year I’ve had the chance to make it with our own sweet nectar harvested right here on our own jolly farm.  After a bit of reading and checking out of recipes on the magic interwebs I came up with a combination to suit my needs and judging by the way it’s being scoffed it worked out well.

I like to make a lot of jam at once so the quantities are for large punnets (4 litres) which works out at 2kg of fruit.  You should be able to break down the quantities for a smaller batch if you don’t live in a house where jam gets hoovered up at an intergalactically speedy rate.

Strawberry Honey Jam

2kg strawberries

2 1/2 cups of raw honey

2 Tblspns of lemon

1 pack of pectin (I used liquid pectin which isn’t as strong as powdered so I used 2 packs)

Mash berries in a large stock pot then add honey, lemon and pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil then cook for about 15 minutes.  Test for set.  I do this by putting a plate in the freezer when I start cooking the jam.  Put a splodge on a push it to see if a skin has formed, if it wrinkles you have reached setting point, if not cook for a bit longer but keep checking as jam can burn easily.

Put jam into sterilised jars and cap, can for 10 minutes in a water canner.  You may as well keep at least one jar out of the canner and beginning eating it as soon as it is no longer molten lava temperature.  Having scones waiting is a super good idea.

 

The Way We Were – Part 2, Kids are Kids

The Way We Were – Part 2, Kids are Kids

When I take the boys out with me and there is a bit of waiting time for them, I often get the same comment from people, “They are great at using their imaginations, it’s lovely to see children playing like that.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s roughly it.  The thing is every kid I know plays like that, they spend hours at it, inventing games, running around like maniacs, making cities out of furniture.  You know, being kids.

We spend hours each week with our other homeschool friends and they are all the same, playing crazy games that only they understand while the parents sit and watch, chat, sort out bangs and scrapes etc.  No intervention required.  Yet everywhere we go, either when I’m alone with the boys or as part of one of our groups, people comment on how lovely it is to see the kids playing happily, enjoying life without a screen to keep them quiet.

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So who are all these kids that aren’t playing?  I  know that we are a culture that is becoming more and more dependent on screens to keep our kids occupied but is it really getting that bad?

Stats Canada is saying that obesity in children is on the rise, linked to children leading a sedentary lifestyle.  A recent CBC report talks about tv and screen use as a factor in obesity in children:

“Kids are playing video games, watching TV, not getting out and exercising. So all of these factors are kind of conspiring against kids despite our best efforts.”

And the organisation MediaSmarts cites a report stating that:

“Television is one of the most prevalent media influences in kids’ lives. According to the 2011 Active Healthy Kids Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Canadian youth ages 6-19 average about six hours of screen time per day, with TV programs (watched on a variety of different screens) accounting for much of this time. [1]”

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I literally have no concept of how a child could be watching a screen for 6 hours every day but even if these statistics take into account computer use for school work and research, that is still a whole heap of time spent staring at a screen.  While I’m happy to use the computer as a tool and have some tv time (in moderation) for recreation, it most certainly should not replace all of the other wonderful and creative activities that my children enjoy.

We recently cut back on tv viewing and computer usage, we were noticing some negative impacts and with the summer here it just made sense to be outside or enjoying our own creativity.  The long winter months make screen time a bit of a blessing but when the sun is  shining there is so much more to do!  So we cut it right out and saw a blossoming of creative play with our boys, less dependency and more making, playing and frankly more getting along with each other.  It confirmed to us that screens really have to be kept in careful moderation in our family.

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When we visited Cumberland Village last week it just confirmed to me that children really haven’t changed much over the years.  It’s easy to overcomplicate things but they are the same fresh minded mud monsters they always have been and always will be.  They love to run, play, learn new things and run and play a bit more.  Fresh air, friends and some rope swings really do take care of business 9/10, plugging in not required.

As the kids played one of the volunteers at the museum commented on how nice it is to see the kids really enjoying the simple play area and all that the museum has to offer, they were so enthusiastic about the new learning, excited to be playing like crazy, no ennui, no affectations of being ‘bored’.  He said it reminded him of his own childhood some 50 years ago.  It seems natural to me that this should be so, but we live in a world in which a free and unscheduled child is a rare beast indeed.

And this is what I try to remind myself of when things aren’t going well and I get myself in a tangle.  When I feel fried, or intimidated by the beautiful internet visions of wondrous activities I could be presenting to the boys on a daily basis, or just ready to hide behind the sofa and take a week long nap,  I remind myself that kids are kids, that they are actually quite simple creatures in lots of ways.  Good food, fresh air, something to do and somewhere to run.  Someone to bring them along and someone to pick them up and dust them off when they fall; a soft lap to land on when things are tough and arms willing to let them dash off when things are good.  It’s the way it’s always been.

kids are kids-9262kids are kids-9266So maybe we live in a bubble, maybe all of us raising our kids this way, with one foot in the mainstream world and one in a world of a our own creating, are hiding a little.  Denying the reality of the world as it is.  And that is just fine and dandy with me.  There will be plenty of time for the boys to choose all that the world has to offer and it will be up to them what they pick.  But when they look back on childhood they will have memories of outside games, summer swimming, tree climbing, wagon rides,  book reading, bike riding, fruit picking, sibling bickering, and a million other moments I can’t even imagine.

Just like all the kids that have gone before them, like all the crazy boys who loved to run, jump, dive, scream, get mucky and get into mischief.  Just like kids are meant to do, because kids haven’t changed, just the world they live in.  What they need is the same as it ever was, as it ever will be.

The Way We Were – Part 1

The Way We Were – Part 1

Last week, along with some of our homeschooling friends, we visited one of our favourite places, the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum.   Much like Upper Canada Village, Cumberland village is a living museum set up with homes, businesses and activities from the 1920’s and 30’s.  There is so much to see and we were lucky enough to participate in one of their educational programmes teaching about thrift and prudence in years gone by.

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In the general store we learned about trading for goods as well as buying them, a concept our children were very familiar with!  Money is still a bit of an odd concept for kids I think, but trading for things you want is a comfortable concept.  The simplicity of the store was very pleasing but when you consider how few choices there were, in stark contrast to today’s over abundance, it makes me wonder about our modern obsession with variety and newness.  Could I be satisfied with so few choices? Or would I find it restful to know there is just one type of washing soap and stop worrying!

past times-9224 past times-9226 past times-9227 past times-9228The homes we visited were simple but recognisable to our modern eyes.  The kitchens had cookers and storage, the living rooms had sofas and items for decoration.  Indeed these homes reminded me a lot of some of the homes of relatives or my grandparent’s neighbours that I would visit as a child.  There was something there that tickled at my memory, perhaps the style of the furniture or the simplicity of the rooms, but I could easily imagine myself there.  Indeed the lack of clutter was very pleasing when considering cleaning and home management.

past times-9229 past times-9230past times-9236When my mum described her grandparents house, she talked of helping her grandmother to hand wash clothes, wringing them out on a mangle in the garden.  That life was one of physical labour and my great-grandmother had 10 living children, 8 of whom were boys who worked in the coal mines.  I certainly don’t envy her that task.

The children loved seeing all the rooms and were enthusiastic about all the concepts our guide talked about.  I think many of the children were more familiar with the ideas of thrift and home skills than is perhaps the norm.  It made me ponder that the family cultures of our home schooled families are perhaps more removed from the mainstream than I had realised.  The only thing that stumped our group was when our guide pointed out that there was no tv and asked the children about their watching habits, one of our parents had to point out that many of the children watch no or little tv, it was the only subject on which they had little to say!

past times-9232 past times-9233 past times-9234 past times-9235 Whenever I visit a place like this, a recreation of the past, I always visualise myself living there.  What would it have been like?  What would I miss from my life and what would I be glad to be rid of?  Though I happily embrace the convenience of modern gadgets (the washing machine and the fridge being so crucial to good life quality) there is much I think I could do without.  What would I really miss?

 

But then I think of my cosy house, warm and well insulated.  I think of the freedom I have to call up my family on the phone or reach out to friends through the internet, I would not wish to sacrifice those things.  I know from the stories I was told as a child, even of my own parent’s childhood that times and people were tougher in the recent past.  I’m very grateful for heat in my bedrooms (something we lacked through my own early years), for double glazing, for a car.  Even a simple vacuum cleaner that allows me to keep my house clean and hygienic in a relatively short space of time.

past times-9237 past times-9238 past times-9239  It’s easy to forget too the reason for all that thrift.  The economic climate that plunged so many into abject poverty, a climate of greed and catastrophe not dissimilar to our own.  Though we have seen so many plunged into debt and hardship it does not even compare to the widespread devastation that occurred in the 1930’s.  More than that our expectations are so different now, what was considered a very pleasant life back then would be seen by many as a low standard of living now, is it possible for us to change those expectations and lead a more balanced life?

I believe it is.  It’s what our family and many others are striving for.  To reclaim skills that were in decline, to live with less stuff and more connection to the patterns of nature and of life.  To work harder for what we have and hopefully appreciate it more.  It gave me no small measure of pride to hear my eldest boy talk about feeding waste food to the pigs, canning vegetables and preserving food for winter.  So many of the old ways were perfectly familiar to him.  Our way of life may not yield the kind of leisure time many families take for granted but it gives us the chance at self reliance and independence; the kind our predecessors took for granted, the kind we need to claim back for our own well being and for that of future generations.

There is so much we can learn from the past, the way forward may even be found there.

 

Fairy Gardens

Fairy Gardens

We are very lucky to have a good friend who organises a wonderful homeschool co-op where we get to try out all sorts of lovely activities and have adventures in all sorts of new places.

Today we went to our second fairy garden workshop and how lovely it was.  At our first workshop the boys really didn’t take an interest which was frankly fine by me.  I got to assemble my nicely tasteful garden with stone walk ways and artfully shaded areas and they got to play with their friends for a couple of hours – win-win!

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This time, however, the boys were all over the fairy garden action.  They painted, decorated and added a phenomenal amount of glitter and bling, it was epic.  All we need is a mini fairy disco ball and we’ll be having fairy raves outside all summer!

It’s not really clear in these photos but trust me when I say that when it came to the glittery gravel and, well, glitter, there were no holds barred.  The boys decorated, primped, added, added more and then, concerned that fairies don’t like the minimalist approach when on the hunt for flowers in our own garden for a bit more decoration.

fairy garden-9208 fairy garden-9209 fairy garden-9211I think any fairy would be very lucky to call this pad home.  Plus, let’s face it, this is certainly the party pad on the block!

If you are looking for some fairy related inspiration I’ve got a few ideas pinned here and my friend Sarah’s much more extensive board is here.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day

 

 

While our Canada day was mostly comprised of lovely outside work (there really is nothing like mowing an acre of lawn to give you a feeling of satisfaction!) we did make some time for a bit of celebrating.  Our local town had a bouncy castle and assault course, pony rides were had and new bikes were thoroughly zipped about on.  But of course the highlight of any celebration is the sparklers…canada day 2013-9183 canada day 2013-9188 canada day 2013-9196 canada day 2013-9201Each year I feel even happier to celebrate this special country, the place that has adopted us, the place our children call home.  Happy Birthday Canada!

 

The Peaceable Home – Co-operative Games

The Peaceable Home – Co-operative Games

I can be found over at Playful Learning today talking about wonderful co-operative games for you and your family.  If you have a favourite family game please do let me know, I’m always on the look out for new ideas!

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I hope that you are having a wonderful Canada Day where ever you are!