Wednesday, August 17, 2011

first day of school

Today is our first day of school at home. We planned to start at 9 AM, but needed to do a little fence maintenence after Opal, our very pregnant goat, got to rubbing against the duck enclosure and popped the connectors free. This led to some duck pond maintenance (it leaks, temporary fix with duct tape). We'd already done some garden maintenance/observation and seed saving (orange cosmos and Lolo Rosa lettuce). Joey had been investigating another potential leak-- our well. It's nearly empty. That could be a problem.

Here's what's going on in the garden, and with the creatures:

The morning glory seeds we collected up the hill (on our neighbor's fence) had sprouted and popped out a flower on the bean teepee we built. The cucs are also flowering, and Gracie has the tallest corn and happiest looking watermelons. The soil is actually quite poor in the top garden foundation. We had a guy dig in 2 dump truck loads of manure, but it needs more. Building the soil up there will be a long term project. I've got the worm bin going, and we've started a compost pile of the animal bedding we muck out of the chicken coop and goat sleeping shed. But I need more!

We've lost 3 hens in the last month. Little Red got out and was mouthed by Rosie. Tigerlily got sick. And Honeybee may have been eggbound. A neighbor said something wise: "Out here in the country, animals come, and often they go too." We reinforced our fence. And decided to separate ducks from the chickens, in case their practice of bathing in the drinking water was causing illness. We also medicated the hens' water with tetracycline. We tried to save Honeybee by soaking her cloaca, and then reaching inside her vent to dislodge the egg, but it didn't work. Very sad. The girls held her as she went. I told them it was a blessing to be held by the one you love when you go.

We have quite a little graveyard going. I hope we're learning something from all this loss. I think there is something healing about digging a deep hole in hard soil. The exertion of it. The girls search about for stones and tiles to keep the burrowing scavengers out. We take the best flowers from the garden, and say a few words. These were good chicken friends, and we will miss their eggs too.

Opal and Frida Kahlo, our goaty girls are due to kid mid September. I predict poor Opal has at least 3 babes in there. She looks completely over the whole thing on hot days. I remember that feeling. Magic, their mama, may kid later in December. We'll milk the girls the remainder of this year. I'm looking forward to that. Goat milk, fresh, is creamy mild and delicious. Perhaps I can find a cheese-making teacher.

The lower garden has done well with sunflowers, lettuce, carrots, beets, zuchini, tomatoes, and more recently corn and beans. I've developed tennis elbow digging in the rocky clay soil. But also a great tan. And it is a lovely garden. Thanks to Mark Pletcher, and Tracey, who insisted on fencing the area when they were up for my birthday in May. The naughty goats were kept out, I threw down some seeds, and when I came back weeks later, they had grown into things we could eat. I think a garden salad was our first harvest.

Our family attended a homeschool conference in Sacramento a couple weekends ago. I think we got more excited about our plan for the year. And my trust deepened in kids' natural curiosity. I believe we've been home/world schooling all these years already. And I certainly learn that way too. When I'm interested in something, I investigate.

What I'm doing more of is noting the learning as it happens. For example, we've been reading James Herriot's book All Things Bright and Beautiful as a family. Lots of great vocab comes up. We discuss, of course, but now we also record the new words, context and meanings in our journals. They may become our spelling words.

Last night we saw Rise of Planet of the Apes (our theater has $5 Tuesdays!). This led to a lively discussion of viruses, and their use in genetic engeneering. I note that Eli has this interest. Will investigate more deeply.

Eli also has been pondering how we might develop a deeper swimming hole down at the creek. One that doesn't silt in, and fills from and empties back into the creek flow. He has also admired some wind chimes at our local nursery. Different metal tubes, of different lengths making different tones. We want to make them. Can we investigate resonance, sound, and the physics of sound. Will random lengths create discordant sounds?

Sophia has recently learned to knit in the round, and make pompoms for her hats. She will enter 2 in our county fair. She's enthusiastic about our plan to have the children make 1-2 meals per week. They will plan, shop and execute a meal of their choosing. Both girls have been painting portraits of al lthe animals in watercolor. We'll post a few samples. I love them.

Grace listed learning about natural dyes a goal. The girls have given Rosie, our dog, a purple mohawk (blackberry dye.) They want to do Magic's horns next.

More later. I'm off to make buttermilk bread and bring the laundry in off the line.


  1. You wrote a lot now I want to write a lot too.

  2. Wonderful! So glad you are blogging. We city folks can glean a little insight as we witness your journeys. And I for one have no doubt that you ALL will learn more deeply as you take time to follow your passions and interests.

    Our girls will be thrilled to hear that Frida is doing well and about to be a mama. Be sure to post some photos! Hope to see you all soon!
    Rebecca and Dave