Friday, 31 August 2007

It's been a funny old week this week. Another one which has passed in a haze. The rapid but seamless passage of our time concerns me sometimes. What are we doing? What are we achieving? Is it right for children (and parents) to bumble along in a content haze? Before you know it you are way down the road and there isn't the supposed *security* of boxes ticked, tests passed and achievements documented.

Instead we have memories of our bumblings. Thoughts of Hermione messing on her tree swing in her nightie for hours on end, attempts at training the cats, children head down bottoms up making mud pies on the deck, arguments over who will get to stroke the rabbit first, Miles munching his way almost single handedly through almost all of the blackberries in the garden, the rush to the Eglu when they suspect a hen may have laid an egg, reading stories, laughter, tears and lots more besides.

To attempt to structure our days into learning/leisure/play would undoubtedly mean that we would loose our flowing bumbling quality. As much as I worry about our bumblings I would hate to have it any other way now.

It's almost a year since we bought our house. Craig managed the renovation. I nagged about the renovation. Craig is an expert at meandering . I'm new to it. I never thought we would get anywhere, actually achieve anything. Thankfully my kitchen no longer looks like this

and my garden no longer looks like this

It is possible to reach goal at a slow meandering pace - although if you happen to read this Craig you must realise that it is not possible to do DIY at a slow meandering pace without being harangued. DIY stores didn't coin the phrase 'weekend projects' for nothing - some things can be achieved in a couple of days.

Some other happy memories I have of this week are thoughts of Lily and Hermione writing stories together using a dice. They take turn to throw the dice and write however many words there are spots on the dice. The dice and piece of paper is then passed over for the other to have a turn and so it continues. I must say that pigs, cats and poo have featured heavily in all stories but they have had great fun and have talked of looking into publishing their efforts. Oh dear, I hope those thoughts pass quickly, I'd hate to have to be the one to disappoint ....

We spent a lovely afternoon looking after a friends children and whats more received some Durham Exchange hours in return. Durham Exchange is run on the Lets principles. I hope that when we have acquired sufficient hours some folks will come round and help me to blitz our front garden. The front isn't really suitable for the children to play in as it isn't secure so it tends to gets neglected.

Something else which has happened this week is that we have decided that once a fortnight Hermione will study our cookery books and choose a three course meal which she will then help to shop for and prepare. We're aiming to get out a table cloth, napkins and candles too! I suggested this to her as I have such fond memories of doing something similar with my mum when I was young. I was probably a bit older than Hermione is now but hopefully with help she will manage fine. She has spent lots of time looking through the books and starting (but not ever finishing) shopping lists. Lily is keen to get in on the act too so it may be that Lily and Hermione will alternate weeks. I'm hoping that by being so actively involved Hermione may actually try some new foods - although I won't hold my breath, she's a girl of very plain and fixed tastes.

Monday, 27 August 2007

More eggs and a pak choi surprise

Omlet has followed Henrietta's lead and is also now laying. We have had five eggs over the past three days and thankfully all have made their way into the kitchen, which is surprising considering the kerfuffle Miles is having about them. He seems to think that the eggs belong to the chickens and when he managed to get his hands on one egg today he ran after the chickens throwing the egg at them!!! It's most out of character as he doesn't usually chase them at all. He's generally very gentle with them. Definitely a bit of confusion going on. At least now we know that they are eating enough grit as despite being thrown and dropped lots of times the egg didn't crack - no problems with weak shells.

Last night I was lucky enough to slope out for a couple of hours when the children were asleep and visit a wonderful pan asian restaurant. I've seen lots of vegetable carvings before but the ones than adorned my meal last night were really special. So special that I popped a couple in my handbag and brought them home to show Hermione and Lily. The photographs really don't do them justice but here you go, this is what you can do with a pak choi stem and a turnip if you are so inclined!

Hermione and Craig went to see Evan Almight today but hasn't really made any comment since she came home. I guess it can't have been up to much.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Our first egg

Today Henrietta laid our first egg. Hermione discovered it in the nesting box. I wonder if this means that she will lay one most days now or if they are a bit stoppy starty in the beginning?

Nana headed off for Canada on Thursday. She has gone to visit my sister for a few weeks. It feels odd without her around.

The weather has been glorious over the past couple of days. So much for my last post with talk of autumn! We have spent lots of time in the garden. Miles has whiled away hours painting the deck and house with a bucket of water. Hermione has spent hours swinging and planning a trip she intends to make alone to a near by village. Hmmm, not sure about this one. I've been weeding, scooping chicken plops etc.

We had a barbecue last night. We all enjoyed it but Hermione in particular thought it was great - especially toasting marshmallows over the coals.

We read the story of Ferdinand again and talked about bull fighting. Neither Hermione or Lily had realised that the bulls are killed. In their innocence they both thought that the bull could fight back and it would be quite 'even' with no one seriously hurt. They now know that sadly this is not the case. Hermione made a poster. She folded her paper in half and on one side drew a bull fight with a big cross through it and on the other side drew a picture of a bull sitting under a tree surrounded by flowers. She put a tick next to the bull under the tree.

The seedlings we planted a week or so ago are starting to show. My labeling hasn't been brilliant but I think it is the spring onions and turnips which are furthest on. Lots of planting on to be done soon.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Nip in the air

We have spent most of the day in the garden today. It has been bright but decidedly chilly. Lots of small branches have blown off the ash and the sycamore is shedding it's seeds. The weather really is changing. I love autumn, it's my favourite season. But here's hoping it hasn't arrived just yet, a little more summer time wouldn't go amiss.

The apples are ripening and we have all started to munch the odd one as we mess outside.

We went on a clover hunt this morning. There are many pictures of clover in the story of Ferdinand so it felt only right to check it out in our garden. We didn't find as much as I expected. The lawn is full of weeds but surprisingly not much clover. We did find some however and brought some inside to do clover rubbings with crayons. I recounted the tale of how when Nana was busy cooking Sunday lunch and wanted me out of the kitchen, she used to send me to the garden to look for four leaf clovers. I whiled away many hours searching.

The red cabbages are really hearty now. I love their colour.

We now have a fence around our veg patch but it isn't chicken proof. For birds that supposedly don't fly they can jump rather high. Tim spent a whole day constructing a fence from wood and chicken wire but by late afternoon they had made their way over it and were pecking about near the spinach. Rascals. I have been reassured by a friend that they won't be so flighty once they start laying - another reason to be excited about the appearance of eggs at some point.


We have read Ferdinand by Munro Leaf this week. The story of a little bull who would rather sit under a cork tree and smell flowers than fight. I have found it quite touching really and can't help but think of all of the real life Ferdinands out there.

Quick round up of what we have done so far -

* Made a story disc and placed it on Spain on our big world map
* Coloured the Spanish flag
* Talked about the tourist industry and looked at a couple of pictures like this one
* Discussed the physical characteristics of a bull as opposed to a cow - yes, one of those udder/ penis/horns sort of conversations.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Getting along just nicely!

Well, it's been one of those weeks, dashing around, doing this and that - hopefully achieving something but I can't be sure!

We read Mirette on the High Wire a couple more times. We pondered how it would feel to run a boarding house of our own, and wrote a list of jobs that we suspected we would need to do and personal qualities it would be desirable to have in that role.

We talked about how shortest routes travel in straight lines (like the high wire) and drew pictures illustrating the quickest routes to different areas of the garden.

Walking on a high wire commands a lot of skill and both Hermione and Lily felt that feet are one of the most important body parts in doing this. We observed how bony our feet are - feet have lots of bones and this helps them to be flexible. We looked at this Youtube clip which shows a lady doing a self portrait with her feet and also talked about how elephants possibly 'hear' with their feet - a couple of particular skills we hadn't previously associated with feet!

The weather hasn't been brilliant but Hermione and Nana did manage a quick trip to Whitworth Park and a local village show yesterday between showers. We have also managed to clear a lot of space on the vegetable patch this week and have planted some chard, carrot, spring onion and turnip seeds. I don't know how they will do. It may be too late but I decided to speculate and we will see what happens.

I'm pleasantly surprised with the hens. They are turning out to be real characters. Particularly Henrietta who has attempted to climb the climbing frame and ran on the top of the washing basket like a mouse on a wheel - before falling off in a heap of crumpled feathers! Unfortunately the veg still isn't fenced off and I think we could have had some pak choi casualties - could have been worse I guess.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Mirette on the High Wire

We read Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully today. It's a FIAR text which tells the story of a high wire walker and his young girl protegee.

The story is set in Paris and the book is illustrated with bold colourful pictures which convey a rustic feel.

We chatted about the story, located Paris on the world map, watched this Youtube clip of a high wire walker and drew pictures of high wire walkers.

This afternoon Miles painted for the first time. He did ever so well, and as he painted outside and followed straight on from painting to paddling pool, there was virtually no mess to clean up - wayhey!!!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

I hadn't planned on blogging today but especially for Helen, here I am with a picture of all three new additions, nestling next to the empty pot and seed tray stack. Left to right - Omlet, Fanjio and Henrietta.

After raiding my makeup box today Hermione decided to try her hand at flower arranging.

We then all spent a couple of hours messing with pay doh. It's true what it says on the can, play doh is suitable for age 2 - 102. And the fun just doesn't stop - I'm off now to try to scrape lots of it out of the grooves in the deck before it starts to rain and we are left with a real gungy mess!

Friday, 10 August 2007

All dressed up and no where to go

The day started with a relaxed potter in the garden plus a little bit of Horizon Maths. We're very erratic with Horizon at the moment. Just going with the flow.

Then followed a flurry of excitement as Hermione and Lily prepared for the Harry Potter Party they were going to this afternoon. They both decided mid morning that they would like to go in fancy dress, leading to much frantic rummaging through wardrobes and drawers in search of something remotely suitable.

Unfortunately whilst driving along the motorway on the way to the party one of the tyres on Nana's car blew out. No one had a mobile phone on them and it took a fair while before they managed to get the wheel changed. What made matters worse was that the area on the other side of the hard shoulder crash barrier was swarming with ants which despite their efforts to brush them away kept crawling up their legs - eeuurghhhh!

They finally made it home safe and sound but because it took so long at the garage having the wheel fully repaired they also missed dance class which was late afternoon. Everyone busied themselves outside instead during which time Miles mastered the art of propelling himself along on his wheely bug - he's used it more like a push along till now! He's certainly having a big developmental spurt at the moment. When we were at friends yesterday he climbed their slide and came down without any help for the first time too.

Lily also made a discovery - a jaw bone complete with tooth which slots in and out of the jaw bone! We aren't certain what animal it belongs too but it has generated a lot of interest here.

Hermione rustled about in the bushes checking out the berries. We are going to have lots of elderberries. More cordial on the horizon I suspect. We also have quite a few blackberries. Not that many, but enough for a few apple and blackberry crumbles thankfully.

I have been looking at the sweet peas for a couple of weeks now and promising myself that I will find the time to attempt to paint them. They are just so vibrant and beautiful. I'm going to give it a try after dinner I hope.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Omlet on the loose!

Disaster struck this afternoon when Omlet managed to squeeze through the fence posts into next doors garden - the garden where there's always a big old dog lurking. It's difficult to describe but it's quite a long walk to get round to the neighbours house. Soo dashed round and tried to get her to return the way she came - with no success. I followed closely behind with Miles in my arms and a cat carrier in my hand. After much kerfuffle Soo managed to catch her with a body warmer of all things. Handyman Tim is coming on Saturday to put more lats on the fence which hopefully will solve the problem, but till then I think the hens will be confined to their run which is a shame when they have only just gained the confidence to come out of it.

We visited friends this morning which was very pleasant. Later we watched a dvd showing the animated tale of Thomas Edison. Hermione looked a little blankly at the dvd at first but she soon became interested and decided to order the Thomas Edison book from The Real Lives series out of the library.

The weather has been glorious today. We have spenty most of the day outdoors, playing with sand and water, admiring the garden and pondering what to put in our veg patch now as it's looking quite bare since we dug out the cauliflowers, brocolli and potatoes.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Mung, black, puy....

What do you do with a few bags of out of date pulses?

Miles practiced his culinary skills.

Hermione made a flower collage on paper.

A house on the floor.

Lily made a sun bean.

All was harmonious in the kitchen for a good hour or more. Soo then tore her hair out for the following hour and a half trying to sweep up all of the beans and lentils with children popping back and forth for another quick mess.

I think we are reaching a stage where Hermione and Miles could share a common interest in some messy play. I feel the on set of play doh, poster paints, jelly pies etc. I'm really pleased to see their age gap becoming less of an issue. All the time they are discovering more things to do together. I find it particularly sweet when she reads to him.

The hens have appeared very happy today. They have been out in the garden for a few hours but confined themselves to under the trees - thankfully well away from the flowers.

We read Mr Gumpy's Motor Car by John Burningham today. Another FIAR book which has failed to hit the spot for me. We chatted for a fair while about co-operation after the story and I suspect there are other issues which we could discuss, but there's nothing specific to really grasp hold of there I think.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Needlecraft and stuff

Today was the second needlecraft get together at our house. Quite a few folks were away so it turned into a more cosy event than last time but still very enjoyable. I think once again shared lunch was the highlight for me - not least because of the vegan chocolate cake.

I really need to find a needlecraft project which inspires me more than the bits and pieces that I have been doing recently - just not certain of what that would be yet! Nana is off to Canada for a few weeks soon and I suspect we will leave the next needlecraft get together till when she gets back.

Later in the day we went to a local community event where Hermione had a henna tattoo done and her name written in Japanese calligraphy.

All in all it was very good for a free community event. There was also a bucking bronco and climbing wall but the girls were below the minimum age limits.

The hens have been much perkier the last couple of days. They have spent a lot of time out in their run and today I opened the run door and they came into the garden briefly. I thought they would have really relished a big open space but they were keen to stay in and around the Eglu. I suspect that will change.

We went along to the library and joined The Big Wild Read late last week. Hermione chose a couple of books from the Oxford Reading Tree Scheme. She's very into them at the moment. I think she's just so pleased that she's finally reading simple stories with ease. We're both pleased. The wait and see approach finally seems to be paying off.

We also spent quite a while the other day discussing porcupines of all things! I learned a lot. I love this 'learning togetherness'. Did you know that there are breeds of porcupine that live up trees and that in many parts of the world they are eaten for their meat?

Sunday, 5 August 2007

The chickens have landed!!!

The chickens have arrived! A black one called Omlet, a white one called Henrietta (groan..I know) and a brown one called Fanjio. They spent the first five minutes in the run during which time one of the cats came for a good look.

Since then they have spent the whole of the time in the Eglu.

I'm wondering how long it will take for them to feel settled and come out. Also now wondering how well the three chickens will get on with the three cats. The lady at Eglu assured me it would be fine but I'm feeling a bit nervous now. Also amazed at the size of chicken plops - and the smell of them when fresh - euuurghhhh. Plops and cats aside though everything is as I hoped for.

Nana just commented tonight on how so many of my long term dreams have come true in recent months. She's right. I'm a very lucky lady.

Friday, 3 August 2007

The Eglu has landed!!!

Our Eglu arrived today. It's been assembled and looks great. I've hankered after hens for years now and was finally convinced that it would be do-able for me after seeing a friends Eglu. It is very expensive for what it is and I do feel rather aggrieved about that, but hopefully it will bring us much pleasure and many eggs!

Hermione and Craig are hen shopping on Sunday.

One of the objections some folks round here have had about the hens (there have been many objections) is that the house would be unsightly. I think it makes a rather stylish addition to the garden - certainly no more unsightly than a slide, tunnel or playhouse.

I've never handled a bird before and have to say I'm rather nervous. But then six and a half years ago I'd never handled a baby ...I guess it's one of those things you just get on with and learn as you go.

The vegetable patch is going to be fenced in within the next couple of days and I only hope my flowers borders are not decimated. Hopefully I won't have to fence them. I'll wait and see.

We have done more since I last posted but I just seem to have Eglu on the brain right now.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Happy Lammas

It's been a relatively peaceful day here today. A time to give thanks and for contemplating our hopes and fears.

Hermione and Lily went to TV Home Ed meeting this morning. They enjoyed it but Hermione came home more subdued than usual. Nana believes this had something to do with the massive amount of dried pineapple she ate first thing this morning resulting in a couple of hours of mad active behaviour followed by a big sugar lull. Possibly right.

This afternoon we baked bread - by hand - Lammas is the day when the bread machine must stay in the cupboard here. It's been so long since we baked bread by hand. I couldn't believe how much flour was spread all over the kitchen worktops and floor in the process of moving from the before and after photos below.

I've practiced reiki for five years now but have never had a 'proper' couch. I decided last week this must change and it arrived yesterday. Tonight I'm going to clear space for it in my attic room. I'm really quite excited. It's a lovely space up there - the views and sunsets are magnificent - and now it will be all the better that I can treat my nearest and dearest in comfort without breaking my back.
The view from my attic room last night.