Category Archives: Weather
I truly still love writing. I’ve just been insanely busy. My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog. (Note: I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post. Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it. Sorry-not-sorry.) Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.
- My oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University. I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned. I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is. I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed. I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”. Ethan turns 18 this month. He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood; it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank. I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.” We’re all learning. It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable. So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party. And, whaddya know? He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town. Not purposefully; that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting. However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge? GREAT! But you left me out of it completely?? Sad face.” LOL!
Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer. I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me. Grant is the opposite of Ethan; he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university… He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life. A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy. To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off. It’s hard to get into the USAFA. Really hard. It’s even harder for homeschoolers. And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person. I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim. However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted. I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them. I remember what it felt like to be blown off. So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals. I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes; I wanted to assist him in every way possible. So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official; you need the child’s Social Security number, even! I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly. And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program. I first thought of Junior ROTC… But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms. Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling. He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this. Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy. But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago. In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home. Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition. Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant. Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition. Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year; his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me. I’m totally OK with that.
My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible. He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”. He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened. Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little. He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie. He’s in the teen youth group at church. It just feels odd to me, still. Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall. None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before. But… I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language. He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level. However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong. There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us; I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach. It’s a small school: this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders. Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day). And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there. This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher: brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader…. I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject. The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school. My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED. However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God. We both feel like He’s saying, “All right. It’s up to you. You can give it a shot.” I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that. But… It’ll do, for now. This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.
This past year was our busiest ever, for school. With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me. In other words: the bare minimum. I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers. However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them. With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls: art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum! It should be a wonderful year. As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD. All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well. I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent. It’s charming. Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive. She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s. She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does. All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her. If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday. That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.
Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy. I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child. Seriously: up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop. Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means. So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper. It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area. Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained. We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it. She just isn’t serious. She is a joyous little bundle of… everything. She’s still chubby and overall large for her age. She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing. She is bossy. Charmingly bossy. “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!” She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply. Or, “Hi! Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her. For unknown reasons, “Hi! Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!” Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!” Then, “O’er side!!” Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!” We all adore Jean.
- This past spring just about did me in. I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong. Well, guess what? We became that family in 2015. Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend. Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP. Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group. I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader. I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well. So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights. Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday. I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April. And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts. Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so… It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table. When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect. I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together. Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work… Lordy, I was stretched. But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter. I feel much freer!!
- My other big things for the spring are: my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision. I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully. I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting. It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer. The bed that is growing, I planted in late April. I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures. I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers. I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose. I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants. There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants. It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February. But, I can’t bear to yank them. We’ll see what happens. My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment. It keeps me sane. To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface. There is much more happening in our home… An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more. But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.
I bought a yogurt maker and I must say, the first batch?? NOT a success. There are lots of conflicting instructions out there for making yogurt. Next time, I will SCALD the raw milk (not boil it, per the instructions I followed), use already-made plain yogurt as a starter (not acidophilus caps that so many places said you could use), and keep better track of the temperature. I’ll also just make plain, rather than the honey-sweetened blueberry yogurt I attempted. The results separated into yogurty curds and whey. The flavor was good, but the texture was horrible. We half-froze ours to make it palatable, and that worked all right. But the next go-round needs to be much more successful!!
- My oldest son now has a job: He’s a bagger at Sprouts, a local, natural grocer. It was really the only job he wanted, and though it took a few months of trying, he got the job! The day he was hired, he had to read 100+ pages of various employee handbooks (which he truly read, because he is thorough, like his father). I also took him to open a checking account, which had about 20 pages of various information and things to sign. As we were leaving the bank, his brow was furrowed, and I could tell he was on information overload. “So, Ethan, now that you have a job and a checking account, do you feel like an adult?” I asked. He replied, “Well, if adults regularly feel confused, then, yes, I feel like an adult.” Ha! Welcome to adulthood, my son. We are having him tithe 10%, save 50%, and the rest is his for spending and short-term savings. He looked at his first paycheck, which was for just one week, and proclaimed that the paper he was holding amounted to more than he had made doing odd jobs in the entire previous year. I had really wanted him to get a job for his own benefit — for learning how to be responsible with money; for learning how to be part of a team within a work environment; and to just take a step up in transition to adulthood… But, unexpectedly, I feel very blessed. He’s not a fully grown adult, but it blesses me, knowing that my husband and I have raised a young man who is an asset to a good company, and to the workforce in general. It feels very right.
Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and today, I have worked HARD in my yard for 2-3+ hours daily. I am trying to transform a section about 21′ x 42′ into my real, true garden. It’s difficult to explain to people unfamiliar with caliche JUST HOW ROCK-HARD our “soil” is. Technically, it’s not soil; it’s dirt. The Bermuda grass — the only kind that will grow in the desert’s heat and lack of water — needs to be removed, so I rented a sod-cutter last Thursday. Man-oh-man, that was SO punishing. So difficult. I put it at the deepest setting — 2½” — to dig up as much of the Bermuda as possible. Now, I am digging and toting the cut dirt/sod to other areas of our yard, making berms around trees. I’m only about 1/3 done with it being cleared. And here, it has mostly been in the mid-90°s. So, add “hot and sweaty” to physically challenging. I am keeping my eyes on the prize of having a productive, inviting, rewarding garden, some months from now. Once I finish clearing the area, I still need to soak the dirt, Rototill it, rake out as many Bermuda grass roots as possible, then cover the area with clear plastic to solarize — and thus kill — it. All of that is BEFORE I get to plant anything. I also need to put up a fence with a footer, not just to keep out the dogs, but to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping back in. I’m collecting interesting garden fence ideas on Pinterest.
- I was going to post about our new dog (a third Staffordshire Bull Terrier)… And about me going low-carb almost-Paleo again. But my baby Jean is waking! So, here are a couple more pics:
When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it. Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however. I now see this as a good thing, mostly. For instance: I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today. My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind. He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t. So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut. Not everyone else is so excited. 🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods. I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now. My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that. I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish. The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy. I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets. My husband can’t stand them. My older two boys are rather ambivalent. The rest of us ADORE beets.
- Our new home is an older one, and it is an endless project. We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls. When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call. Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose? dry-blown fiberglass? fiberglass batts? do-it-yourself? or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine. The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation. It was quite an undertaking. He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic. Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories. It was hours of work. Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed. At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value. “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant. “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied. “Good. We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY. However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year. Seven times. Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday. And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating. BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon. Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs. So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty. I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties. My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!” And yes, this is said while shouting. I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family. This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader. However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased. He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting). Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water. In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long. I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time. Hmph.
- Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline. In our last home, the HOA forbade them. Even in the back yard. This house has no HOA and plenty of space. However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight. But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline. So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants. Voila! Clothesline. So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels. Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking. A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.” I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do. I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes. I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes. Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me… It is, indeed, a meditative activity.
With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes. The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th. And… the baby could come at any time, really. I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date. While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids. She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up. 🙂 Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16. Just like me! She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house. So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home. If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her. If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way. That’s at least the plan. Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be. I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness. She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own! I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members). Anyway. It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out. 🙂 I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.
- We’re almost done with school. Kind of. Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week! My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done. He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June. I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done! But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well. We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.” There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school. So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum… I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby. Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own. Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc. But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them: “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together. Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself. However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.” That is one of the benefits of homeschooling: You can make it be flexible when you need to. They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly. But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess. It’s better than just stopping school. That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low. Perhaps I am… But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school. 🙂
Wee little garden update:
This morning, I harvested $6.58 worth of fresh, organic produce. Here’s how I figured it:
- One head of lettuce (Simpson Black Seeded — one of the BEST choices I made for my garden this spring). Seven oz, after being torn and washed. Five ounce containers of organic lettuce are typically $3.99. At that rate, my lettuce is worth $4.49.
- Two ounces broccoli — actually my largest head of broccoli so far, only about 5″ across… Turns out that broccoli typically doesn’t produce well at first try… Still, I’m not giving up. I may try a different variety next time, though. And plant it later, as the best of my broccoli has been harvested this month, when it’s warmer. Anyway. I can typically get organic broccoli at the store for $1.49/lb, so my two ounces equals $0.19 worth.
- Turnips — 3.5 oz. Actually, they’re not turnips. They’re the roots of Tyfon greens, which is a cross between a turnip and a kind of Chinese cabbage. Tyfon was a good choice when they were young and it was cooler, and we ate a ton of it, usually garlic braised and mixed with red chard. But as the weather has warmed, the Tyfon has been an absolute aphid MAGNET. Gross. So, I pulled the remainder of them out this morning, and a few of them had biggish, turnip-looking roots. Thus, 3.5 oz of “turnips”, at $2.99/lb = $0.65 worth.
- Six ounces carrots. We have a spot at the end of the garden where my daughter Fiala dumped an entire packet of carrot seeds. Even with regular thinning, it has turned into a carrot forest. I did a little research, because these carrot tops were developing powdery mildew. It turns out that powdery mildew — which is fairly harmless on carrots, though it can spread to other plants and stunt growth — flourishes in dry days, in shady conditions, and in crowded plants which inhibits circulation. The “carrot forest” is, unfortunately, largely shaded by a tree. It’s dry here. And, they’re crowded. Thus, I’ve had to pull out lots of baby carrots, which really aren’t akin to grocery store “baby carrots”. When they’re not full-grown, they’re rather bitter. But, they’re still edible. So, 6 oz carrots at $0.99/lb = $0.38 worth.
- I also harvested eight cherry tomatoes — 4 yellow and 4 red. Organic tomatoes are really expensive — typically $3.99/lb. So, my 3.5 oz of cherry tomatoes is worth at least $0.87.
If my math is right, that is $6.58. And that’s just from today! I’m daily harvesting produce. AND, there’s still a bunch of red chard I need to harvest before it bolts, which I will do later today. Organic red chard is typically $1.99/bunch this time of year, and I have enough for a good 4, 5, 6 store-sized bunches. Maybe more. And there are some lovely green onions that can be harvested. Even though my garden is small — about 7′ x 20′ — it has been extremely productive, once I got it going… Definitely more productive this spring than last; I’ve learned a lot in quite a short period of time.
“I almost love the CSA I’m participating in,” I thought last night, as I sipped the homemade chamomile, sage, and mint herbal tea “my” farmer, Dana Mast of WindyView Acres, had included in yesterday’s box of goodies.
I more love it than not, but it hasn’t provided the overflowing basket of abundant greenery I thought I’d be receiving weekly. We had a weird winter here in south-central Arizona, and the location of the farm (Dewey, AZ) had freezing night temperatures into May! Dana has been farming there for fifteen years, and she said it was the longest, coldest spring she can recall. Logically, I can extend her some grace; of course the freezing temps could stunt growth… and that is one reason why CSAs exist — to help the farmer offset some of the risk associated with farming. I appreciate her efforts to make up for the lack of produce by adding extra eggs, milk, cheese, and even farm-raised, chemical-free meat and home-baked goodies… And, I extend her grace when she doesn’t communicate all that well; I know she’s super, super busy. But, it does make me at least start to have second thoughts of the cost-benefit of the endeavor. One friend of mine has even dropped out, due to her disappointment. I haven’t given up on Dana and the farm, but I’m kind of waiting until the end of the season to pass my final judgement on whether or not the whole adventure is worth decreasing my already-tight grocery budget by $25/week to accommodate the cost of the CSA.
Yesterday, she said that a pack of coyotes got into her chickens and killed 80 of the 120 (if I’m remembering the numbers correctly). On top of that, the remaining chickens are molting, which decreases egg production. So, no eggs are likely for the rest of the season. 😦
Still. Last night, we enjoyed dinner, largely courtesy of the CSA. I made a delicious scramble with Egyptian Walking Onion bulbs (like shallots), garlic, green onion tops, red bell pepper, banana peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, sheep milk feta cheese, fresh oregano, and fresh Thai basil, two goose eggs, and 18 chicken eggs. (All items in bold were from the farm.) I served it with fresh farinata and gluten-free sour-milk biscuits (made with this flour mix), on which we gleefully slathered butter and honey.
My son Wesley, who as I have mentioned previously, gets a severe asthmatic reaction from dairy, has been able to drink raw goat milk from the farm. Last night, he ate two and a half biscuits made with sour cow milk, and he didn’t even wheeze. Not at night, nor this morning. Hmm…
Yesterday’s haul had:
- black Spanish radishes (have to look up recipes for these huge, spicy radishes… found these… looks good!)
- Button red radishes
- Egyptian walking onions
- green (spring) onions
- a small bag of about six assorted hot peppers (banana, jalapeno, and Thai hot)
- several sprigs fresh oregano
- several sprigs fresh Thai basil (I love Thai basil!)
- about one cup of the above-mentioned dried herbal tea mixture
- a plate with six (wheat) egg & onion dinner rolls — I kept four and gave two extra to my friend who is doing the CSA as well, since we only have two gluten-eaters in our family of seven.
- 1/2 gal raw goat milk
- 1/2 gal raw cow milk
- 2 goose eggs (each equivalent to 3 chicken eggs)
- large pork shoulder roast — a good 4 pounds or more
- two packages (about 3 lbs total) beef liver — I would never consider eating liver from any “commercial” cow… Pastured beef, though… I’m still a little hesitant, but I’m gonna try it!
Definitely, money-wise, worth more than $25 — since raw milk is $10/gallon and natural/organic meat is at least $3/lb, those items by themselves make it worth the cost. But still, I mostly got into it for the produce, which has been less abundant than I’d anticipated.
We’ll see. 🙂
- My oldest, Ethan, just had a lunch that consisted of refried beans with cheese melted on them, and a glass of milk. What the rest of us were eating (which included, among other things, baby carrots) didn’t work. Duh. I’ll have to get used to considering the Sore Mouth Factor when figuring out meals for him/us. He got bands placed between his molars this morning, in preparation for the first of his braces, which will be put on in about two weeks.
- Speaking of Ethan… A few years ago, I was wondering why I wasn’t getting more great parenting stories, ideas, and tips from those of my bloggy friends who have children a few years older than mine. “Why isn’t anyone writing about those tumultuous teen years??” Well, I figured it out. At nearly 14, my son is now a… sentient being. The smaller a child is, the more freely you can talk about personal issues: An 18 month old isn’t going to get her feelings hurt that you divulged mothering struggles to your friends. (Or strangers, as the case may be, in a blog.) Your 13 year old? Definitely. So, I’ve learned that I can say virtually nothing about my son online, because I want to honor his privacy. He’s wonderful, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. 😉
- And, where have I been the last month or so? Working hard on ghostwriting. More info on that, coming soon. 😀
- In my head, I keep composing a post on how vastly different I look with makeup vs. without it, and various thoughts on painting the barn when it needs painting. Maybe I’ll get around to it some day…
- I’ve been reading a lot! Lately, I’ve been working through Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which is a curious mixture of historical fiction, literary mystery, Biblical scholarship, and feminism. Very interesting. When reading any series, I simply must go chronologically, so I’m on the 5th book in the series currently, O Jerusalem.
- I have a job! I mean, I’m re-employed! Or, something… I’m happy that, this week, I start leading small group worship again. There was some shifting in small groups, and I was out of a “job” for about six or seven weeks. It felt like a long time, but it was good to go to a small group and “just” be a participant.
- Homeschooling 101: You can take trips on a school day to just about anywhere and call it a field trip. 😉 I took my kids last Friday to the Santa Maria River. My mother-in-law came with, which was great; she’s a perfect road-trip partner. The kids did so well for the eight hours we were gone, other than the first three miles of the trip. After listening to about five minutes of continuous bickering, I risked my MIL’s esteem by pulling over to the side of the road to chew everyone out. Chewing out the kids, that is. Not her. On the way out*, we took a scenic route, partially by (well-maintained) dirt road, which is probably my favorite or second-favorite Arizona drive**. On the way back, we took all blacktops, which took two hours and saved us 30 minutes, even though, mileage-wise, it was slightly longer. The river is NW of Wickenburg, and when there’s adequate water, it’s about as close as we get to the beach, here in Arizona. The water does not run all the time, so I get USGS alerts for when the water is 10 cubic feet per second or greater. The pics below were when the water was at about 60 cfps. We played in an area just where the AZ 96 (my fave road in all of AZ) crosses the river, about 15 miles SE of Bagdad. The temps were in the high 70s, with a strong sun and cool breezes. It was perfect.
I have some better pics, too, but everything I post here needs to be 100% modest and fully-clad, so those are a no-go for the blogosphere. 🙂
*The route we took OUT was Carefree Hwy (AZ 74) west to US 60. US 60 northwest for only six miles to the point where it meets up with the US 93. US 93 NW to AZ 89. AZ 89 north-ish to Date Creek Road, which is 20+ miles of scenic and hilly dirt road. Then, AZ 96 west to the point where it crosses the Santa Maria. The route we took BACK was AZ 96 about 10 miles further west (bypassing, incidentally, my beloved Santa Maria River road, another extremely scenic dirt drive, because I was outvoted by my children). Then, traveled SW sixteen miles on two-lane hilly, beautiful, remote blacktop of the AZ 97. Then, SE on the US 93, which meets back up with the US 60, then back home.
**My all-time favorite Arizona drive is likely the long, ∩-shaped drive to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which follows the high desert and Navajo Reservation along the US 89 and US 89A (at the point north of where it intersects with the US 160), along the stunning Echo Cliffs and Vermilion Cliffs, then climbs rapidly up to the Kaibab Plateau and the AZ 69, which goes south along verdant, alpine meadow lush with wildlife (deer and bison). Unparalleled, and remote enough to be sparsely populated, which is just how I like it.
In no particular order:
- Fiala’s second birthday. Precious girl. We have no pictures because my camera is totally broken now, and the grandparents forgot theirs. We had a simple cookout party with family at the park on Saturday. Between Friday (her actual birthday), and Saturday, she received a grand total of three presents, each simple and inexpensive… but her face is such a delight when she receives a present. I think she really understands the heart of gift-giving, and she feels so special and thankful, no matter what the gift is, which makes it all the more delightful to give something to her.
- Receiving new earrings in the mail. Ordered from Mom Potter’s Etsy shop. 🙂
- The new Sherlock on PBS Masterpiece. It was so wonderful! I really enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!) on 2008’s The Last Enemy, aired on Masterpiece Contemporary last year, and he was even better as a 21st century Sherlock. My husband wasn’t so convinced he’d like it — he’s a big fan of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock portrayal. But, about ten minutes into it, he said, “OK. I’m hooked!” Not giving too much away, but if you know the story of Sherlock Holmes, the one problem I had with the storyline/script is that it HIGHLY inferred that one character was so-and-so, but it turned out not to be the case, but another slightly lesser-known character. I felt a tad manipulated, and I hate that in movies/TV shows. Still. It was really good.
- The cooler weather in Phoenix. Mornings in the 60s. Days in the 80s or occasionally a bit lower. ~sigh~ I’ve been waiting for this!!
- Getting a couple of bird mysteries solved, via a birding listserv I just joined. Yes, that is a Eurasian Collared-Dove I saw; as an introduced species, they are heading westward. And, yes, Anna’s Hummingbirds can hybridize with Costa’s.
- Worship on Sunday. It was so rich, both musically, and with the presence of God. I couldn’t even sing, half the time. Good thing I wasn’t on stage! 😉
- The author of the book I ghost-wrote signed her contract. This was after long weeks of (slow) negotiations. She got some things altered for her benefit. Good for her!! Expected publication date is August 1, 2011.
- Our “new” entertainment center. Our TV barely fits, but it does fit! My hubby and oldest son spent a good portion of Saturday setting it up. 🙂
- The Jars of Clay Greatest Hits CD. I have a couple of their CDs. I’ve been a somewhat-fan over the years. And, this CD is two years old, so I’m behind… (as always, with music) But, what a great CD this is!! I spied it at the library, and I’ve been greatly enjoying it. All my kids like it, too. I’ve been belting out the songs at the top of my lungs as we’ve traveled to and fro these last couple of weeks, as I’m familiar with all but three tracks on the CD. It’s eminently singable. I’m not normally a huge fan of retrospective type albums, but for someone like me, who enjoys Jars of Clay, but who does not own the whole collection of their discs, it’s perfect.
- My oldest son, Ethan. He’s not a “thing”, but I have been so enjoying his growing-up. He is 13. In June, he stepped up to the youth group at our church, instead of the kids’ church… He was unsure about the transition, but he’s really enjoying it now, and I think it has lent to his already-thoughtful nature, learning things and considering subjects that need some deeper maturity. He’s a boy of few words, so it’s difficult to get a long conversation from him. But, in our exchanges, I have been delighted in the evidence of his careful thought and kind consideration of those with whom (or of whom) he speaks. He’s not perfect, of course, and there are a few things about him that make me wanna pull out my hair. But — similar to my husband, of whom I have the same confidence — Ethan is faithful to work on the areas of his life’s garden which need weeding. If you point out an error, he genuinely takes steps to improve, even if initially, he’s not all that receptive. He’s a son to make a mother proud, and I love him so.
I have a traveling buddy. Her name is Allison. Allison is just the right type of companion for me: laid back, can make fun out of almost anything, likes to drive, and has children whose company my own greatly enjoy.
All of those qualities are important, because the outings and adventures I have with my children are usually to fairly far-flung locations, and NOTHING ever goes exactly according to plan. Normally, I am 100% OK with that; Plan B is usually just as great as the original. However, when I have friends with me, I get extremely nervous, because I then feel responsible that they have a good time, and that everyone’s expectations are fulfilled.
But, Allison doesn’t care, and she assured me with a laugh that, yes, even though our trip on Friday totally didn’t go as we had expected, she had a great time, and her two boys did, too, and she’s looking forward to a do-over. Two for the price of one. 🙂
So, here was the plan:
- Apple-picking at the organic orchards of Date Creek Ranch.
- Playing in the Santa Maria River.
Here was Plan D:
- Driving for two hours to play in a tiny town’s public pool.
Believe it or not, reality ended up being really fun.
Normally, Date Creek Ranch, a small organic farm, is open on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. However, when I contacted them a few weeks ago to inquire about a Friday visit, they said that could easily be arranged; I just needed to call first. Now, I freely admit I should have called on Monday or Tuesday. I had no reason not to. But, I didn’t. I called on Thursday morning, and got their voice mail. They didn’t return my call. I called Friday, after we had hit the road, and again, left a message, which they never did return. Hmph.
So, we decided that, until we heard from Date Creek Ranch, we’d go to the river first.
Now… after I got home, I decided to check online to see if there was some sort of info online about the Santa Maria River. I should have done this FIRST. Lulled by my success in finding copious amounts of water flowing in the river for trips past (see lovely pic above), we set off willy-nilly, me with no doubt that there’d be plenty of water for all. I was disappointed and surprised — crushed, really — that there was NO WATER in the river. None. Not upstream, not downstream.
And, that’s just what the USGS real-time data for the Santa Maria River shows: Zero flow, which is where it’s been at all summer, minus about two days. 😦
Additionally, the place where we have previously accessed the river now has barbed wire and ominous No Trespassing Private Property signs. I’m enough of a rule-follower not to flaunt such warnings.
So, we had lunch under a hopeful-looking cottonwood tree (which also appeared to be a favorite hang-out of cows) and reassessed out situation. We decided to go to Bagdad, which is a company copper mining town, currently entirely owned by Freeport MacMoRan. My elder brother used to live there (he did something with the computers on the big trucks). Additionally, Allison’s mom had recently traveled to Bagdad and raved about the mine tour she took.
So, after the failure of the apple-picking and river-playing, we decided — Plan C — to try for the tour.
Bagdad was only about ten miles, almost all on paved roads, from where we had taken our lunch. So, we quickly arrived, and followed the signs to the mine. When there, Allison went into the office, where she discovered that not only are tours by appointment only, they are open only to those aged nine and over, which left out my two girls. Office Lady gave us the business card of the tour guy, and suggested that we call him, in the off-chance that he would be available.
We did, leaving a message on Tour Guy’s voicemail. Allison and I discussed how the girls and I might be able to pass the time, should Tour Guy become available. I was not really looking forward to passing time outside with two little girls for a couple of hours in near-record heat (it was hovering around 100°). Allison went back inside the office to ask the Office Lady if she had any suggestions. She highly recommended the community center, which had a pool, library, a playground, and the museum.
We had wanted to find the museum anyway. So, off we went. We found the community center complex in short order. And, while the library was closed, and though the woman holding down the fort in the office would have to track down someone to unlock the museum, the pool and playground were open, and what’s more, it was all FREE! I’m into “free”.
The playground was in excellent condition and shaded, and the pool was partially indoors.
You might possibly recall that I broke my camera’s LCD viewing screen in July, so I had no idea what my pictures were going to look like. I also didn’t discover until minutes ago that there was a humungous smudge on the lens, right in the center. So, my pictures, few that I took, really didn’t turn out well. But, perhaps you can tell that the indoors part had a zero-entry toddler play area, complete with a variety of water squirters and dumpers, and the deeper part had a waterpark-style slide. Plus, we had the run of the place: Just two moms, seven kids, and a lifeguard who spent her time playing with her nails and texting.
The kids had a blast.
The pool closed a little more than an hour after we arrived… After our swim, we found someone to unlock the museum (which was an interesting but haphazard collection of the 100 year history of the place). We then went to the playground to play and have a snack — gotta love friends who, though they don’t have to be gluten-free, virtually never fail to make and bring gluten-free brownies to share. After that, we stopped at the town’s lone grocery store (Bashas’ — I heart local stores!), got candy and cold drinks, and headed home by way of the Arizona 97, a hilly, scenic, high desert two-lane byway which I’m certain I’ve never been on in my life.
Other than me realizing about 15 miles on the far side of Wickenburg that I was about to run out of gas, necessitating that I turn around to fuel up, thereby losing an additional half-hour+, the ride home went smoothly. We arrived a little after 6 p.m. to my smiling hubby who already had the grill going, bless him.
And then Allison’s Joel and my Wesley went down the street to collect a neighbor boy, and the boys had a sleepover for Joel & Wesley’s birthday (the two boys are birthday twins — same day, same year), and stayed up until 11 p.m.
I was beat. Tired. Exhausted. Drained.
All in all, though, it was a wonderful day, made all the better by flexible friends whose company we enjoy, no matter how badly my ill-made plans fall to pieces.
Cooler weather has arrived. Sort of. “Cooler weather” here means that the highs are only in the 90s, and the early mornings are down into the upper 60s. I even had to wear a little sweater on the back patio this morning, which was so nice.
Cooler weather also means that more birds come out to play. There are a large number of birds who stay here year ’round, but summertime sees mostly house finches, house sparrows, grackles, and mourning doves. There are other birds out there, but as far as what I see in my back yard, the summer pickings are pretty slim. Hot afternoons are eerie, with not a chirp to be heard, nor a flit to be seen.
I do see hummingbirds here, through the summer. Odd: in my last house (in a less far-flung location), I would most often see Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Costa’s Hummingbirds favor this location. Watching a Costa’s try to sip from each of the five fake flowers on my hummingbird feeder led me to whip up some simple syrup to fill it. Then, I broke the feeder, and now it won’t hold any liquid. 😦
Now, for the last couple of weeks, I have seen, almost daily, a family (I believe) of Cactus Wrens — two adults and a juvenile:
Yesterday, I saw a really large and thick-billed Curved-billed Thrasher, and I had to giggle, because he was… thrashing around in the gravel.
And, this morning, I caught a glimpse — both by sight, and in hearing the flight call — of what I’m nearly certain is an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler. I got just a flash of yellow, but for certain caught the charcoal-colored wing with the white patch of coverts, while it was in flight — breeding plumage, still.
On a number of successive mornings, I also have seen three juvenile Mourning Doves; I’m pretty certain they’re siblings. I got excited at first, because I thought they were adult Inca Doves. Sadly, no such luck; when they took to flight, I realized my error.
I heart birds.
Did I ever mention that Fiala loves birds, too? I’m tickled to have a birder-in-training. She is genuinely interested in birds; I haven’t bribed her or anything. 🙂
Here in the desert, everyone gets stir-crazy ’round this time of year. Truly, unless you’re doing something water-oriented, there are about four solid months when you just cannot take a step outdoors.
Each morning, I try for a few minutes (my goal is 30 minutes… it’s usually more like 5 or 10 before someone pops their head out the back door) of peace outside on the back patio — praying, reading Scripture, watching birds, hoping for a fresh breeze… From May through August, even at 7 a.m., it’s over 90°F, many times significantly warmer. It’s hot in the summer, but I encourage myself by thinking, “It’s going to be so much hotter in a just a few hours. Enjoy the warmth before it turns into unbearable heat.” Thus tricked into believing that 95° isn’t so bad, I stay outside.
We all simply long… Or, maybe it’s just me. *I* just long for the days to cool, so that we can spend time outdoors without it feeling like a blast furnace. I don’t like being cooped up indoors, and I don’t like my kids to be, either.
This was taken by my hubby, yesterday early evening, as I was trying to prepare dinner quickly. The best remedy to the constant interruptions proved to be taking the kids to the park. 🙂 They came back hot and sweaty, but at least it was do-able.
This morning, per the 7:00 regimen, I stepped outdoors. Then with a wee jolt, stepped back in. Then, out. Then, back in. Could it be?? Is the outside actually cooler than the inside?? (We keep the thermostat at 79°.)