Monday, July 29, 2019

Blackberry Outfits

Down around our pond we have a huge tangle of blackberries. They are intertwined with wild grapes and poison ivy, and every year we brave the bugs and weeds and pick as many as we can reach. There have been years when we freeze bags and bags of berries, and then we have a year like this one... where we miss the season completely.

We got caught up in waiting for a path to be mowed around the thicket and we just plain waited too long to make it down there. We didn't know it was too late, though, when we decided on a morning to go check this past week.

Now, there is a lot of poison ivy in and around the blackberries, and Mama has had a rough encounter with it before (that kinda traumatized everyone), so before we headed out the door the kids decided to design their own poison ivy-proof outfits. It took them about 15 minutes before they were ready to go check things out...

...but once every inch of skin was covered (from the neck down), we got the green light to go down to the blackberry patch.

Sadly, after all that trouble, we got down there and figured out they were pretty much done! We found about a handful of berries still on the vines, but most of them were dehydrated or just plain gone. What I thought was awesome, though, was the upbeat attitude of my bundled-up Littles, who came away with their little handful of berries feeling accomplished and proud that they were able to pick them all with no poison ivy, thanks to their creative getups.

At least we'll know just what to wear when blackberry season comes back next year!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Big Kid Issues

I don't know about y'all, but for us, chores and allowances and kid-determined spending comes up in conversation pretty frequently between Mama and Daddy over here.

For quite a while now our kiddos have been helping with the chores around the house, but only recently have they been given real responsibilities that they are expected to handle without parental intervention. About the same time that came about, they started getting paid for a handful of them, too. I was torn about paying them for things I felt they should just do because they are members of the family and should contribute to improving or maintaining their situation. However, there's a worthy argument to be made that you shouldn't fight the natural partnership of work and pay when this comes up. So allowances became a weekly thing, too.

To be honest, being able to remind a reluctant worker that no chores = no money has helped get a few things done and cut a few arguments short, but there was also a glaring gap in our process: how should they be managing that money once they earn it?

For a couple years now, we've just been having them use good old-fashioned piggy banks, but those piggy banks have kinda outlived their practicality and usefulness.

First, we realized they needed wallets.

Then, we realized they needed a way to track their spending, what they were saving for, and what they ultimately wanted to spend the money on.

Finally, we came up with a system- whiteboards.


So now they both have one of these puppies on the back side of their bedroom doors, and I was shocked to see, for example, what Audrey put in the 'What I Have' column to start with (it was over $100 you guys), and what Henry wanted to start saving for (a pool), but we've had a lot of good conversations about budgeting and saving, and I think we're finally finding a rhythm that will help us balance those big kid issues- chores, allowance, and spending.

It's working for now, anyway!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Big Fat Charlie Gets a Bath

Pooooooor, poor Charlie. Not only is he the biggest of the two Christmas guinea pigs (by far), but he also has the longest hair (a total accident when I picked him out), and he is the smelliest and dirtiest of the pair to boot. He lounges all day long in whatever he happens to be standing in, his fur trails through whatever he passes over... you get the idea. Short-haired, trim little Wilbur has no trouble keeping himself clean. Charlie on the other hand... let's just say Henry was getting grossed out about holding him, and we finally decided enough was enough.

It was time for Big Fat Charlie to have a bath.

And so a bath he did have.

Henry very gently and carefully washed all his curly fur, and we gave him a little trim to make it harder for him to get dirty again. The conclusion of his spa experience was a nice little garden salad, shared with his roommate and still cold from the fridge.

So now Big Fat Charlie is clean and fluffy (at least for the time being), and as a result is enjoying much more attention from his favorite human. I think Wilbur appreciates the effort, too.

Honestly, I think we all do.

Monday, July 8, 2019


We have been keeping bees since 2016 and have gone through three honey flows now, and all this time- for one reason or another (mostly because I ignored my responsibilities with regards to varroa)- we have sat them all out. There was of course the honey I got from a cutout and our serendipitous little harvest last year, but we have never done a real extraction with our own honey frames... until now.

This feels really big for me, you guys. I've never been so happy about being a hot, sweaty, sticky mess!

Five quarts of mild, floral, and maybe a little melon-y-golden success! A family effort with enough to share... I cannot tell you how good it feels to be a part of the harvest season this year!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Christmas Gift in Midsummer

Late in the winter, while the trees were still bare, my chicken girls started getting a little attention... all the wrong kind of attention, actually: in a matter of about two months, we went from 9 girls to 5 due to predation. We also lost our little raven-black rooster, Edgar, to a hawk (he was the first to go). Something furry and gray then started sneaking into the coop whenever I'd forget to go out there after dark and close it up, and one by one I was feeding the local wildlife an organic chicken dinner just about every-other-week.

The rub was that I'd actually gotten a battery-powered, solar-timed automatic chicken door for Christmas, but there was a lot going on at that time and it was just hanging out on top of the fridge, waiting for it's turn on the to-do list.

This weekend, it got it's turn. After a whole new wall panel and a guillotine-style door was installed (in less than an hour!), my girl went to work with the finishing touch so the chicken girls would feel right at home with their new back door...

So now my feather girls are released at 9am and closed up safe and secure at 9pm, and as soon as we learn more about the programming we'll switch to the door opening at full daylight and closing at dusk. The only problem we have left to deal with now is where the heck they're laying their eggs out there now that they can get out first thing in the morning!

Oh, and as for our diminished flock, we've taken care of that, too...

Six new "peeps," including two Easter-eggers with fluffy cheeks! Currently residing in a brooder generously shared with us by Uncle Larry & Aunt Karen- and I'm telling you, that fence lid they added pretty much saved my chicks right after we got them. Their introduction to Suka was her looking down at them from above as she was standing on it. Audrey and Henry now know to be extra careful about closing the garage door behind them!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Finger Puppets

There are times when it feels like we go days and days and days struggling between all the impulses, comforts, and privileges of being Little and all the responsibilities, assertions of independence, and different privileges of being Big. One will want the responsibility of choosing what they want to eat and maybe even preparing it, but not cleaning it up. The other will want the privilege of stay up way too late, but won't take responsibility for their poor attitude the following day. They're "too cool" for some things and yet cling to others that I would have thought would have fallen by the wayside long ago.

Some things I'm happy to see change, some things I'm happy to see have stuck around.

The other night, we were invited to a puppet show in Audrey's room, complete with music, costumes (made of clay), and a legit plot based on Huckleberry Finn. It was something I thought she might have gotten too big for, yet was pleasantly surprised to find was still going strong...

She was most proud of the costumes she designed out of clay, though she said after the show that she needed to work out a way to keep the "garments" from falling off her fingers during the presentation.

I hope there is always something lingering that reminds me that no matter how stubborn they are, and no matter how frequently it feels like they're pushing us away in the course of becoming their own people, there is still a Little tucked in those growing bodies... a Little who likes to create, who loves that Mama attention, and who needs that over-the-top unconditional praise for their efforts.