Tuesday, July 22, 2014

County Fair

I'm not sure if the 4th of July or the County Fair is a bigger deal in this house as the highlight of summer.  This is our second year bringing 4H projects to the fair, and I felt like we went this year with some realistic expectations, and experience under our belts.

4H is a club common in the country (though not excluded from cities) where kids show animals and projects.  It took me an a few years to grasp the range of projects that could be done.  Now that we have a better understanding of categories, we were able to bring a lot more projects this year, and interview better for them.  The kids are interviewed about their projects and are awarded either a blue or red ribbon, depending on the quality of their project and interview combined.

Silje brought 8 projects this year, and was awarded 8 blue ribbons.  The girl who interviewed in front of her with some amazing wool projects, and was her age got 3 grand champion ribbons, which was exciting since we got to see that happen.  So now Silje is trying to brainstorm a champion-grade project.  David brought 3 projects, but he's in the cloverbud class, which is the younger kids.  It's his last year as a clover bud, and next year he will be judged in the older class with Silje.  Cloverbuds basically practice interviewing and bringing projects.  They get used to the process, and the judge usually gives them hints on improving their projects for the next year, and gives them an inside look on how the judging is done.  He got his 3 rainbow participation ribbons this year.

They get money for their projects too, and their checks will be mailed out later this fall.  This is one of the biggest income generators for our kids for the year, so they really put their hearts into it.

Silje's projects were:
-A fairy garden terrarium
-2 flower bouquet arrangements
-2 framed, completed stamped cross stitch projects
-2 pieces of pottery from their pottery class
-A framed painting she did of her cat Starlight, and her 2 kittens

David's projects were:
-A poster explaining his tree project with a tree to have on display
-A Lego starship he built from his imagination
-One of his pieces of pottery from their pottery class
(He was limited to 3 projects, in this class though if we had animals to show it could have been more.)

The kids' club also had to volunteer one morning at the food stand which earns money for the 4H program.  They mostly had to wash tables, as the older kids in their club make more of the food.  They also helped fill some simple orders.  While they were at the food stand, the 3 younger kids and I walked through all of the barns and just had fun with all of the animals.

I've learned over the years that toddlers rarely stay in the stroller, and they scream if I just force them to.  I always end up carrying them AND pushing the stroller, and it's too much on my body.  So I just put Ingrid in the Ergo carrier, which is nice on my back, and since she snuggled into me all morning, I don't have any pictures of her.  I have bunches of Elias and Solveig, though.

The baby animal barn was a favorite.

The ducks and geese were THE favorite.  I found that surprising for some reason.

Of course, Solveig was delighted at the 4H club that decorated their horses' stalls in the "Frozen" theme.

Oh, there were so many other fun things.  I won't bore you with our endless "vacation pictures."  On the last night of the fair, the kids used the money they saved to buy some wristbands and go on rides.  Silje and David have much stronger stomachs than I have!  I will say that a good time was had by all, and ideas for next years projects are already in the works.   I made it home the whole week without buying a lamb or bunny or anything.  Knut counts that as a victory.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I'm Blessed

We did the county fair last week.  When your kids are in 4H, it's not just a matter of visiting some booths and going on some ride.  There are weeks, if not months of preparation for projects, and then days of judging, volunteering, and of course rides.  Our judging days were cut down to one since the red fox took our fair chickens.  They must be a certain age to show, and our current layers are too old.  Frankly the others were too young, but we were planning on bringing them anyway.

Anyway, I have so much more to say on the fair, as it's such a highlight of our year, but I'll leave that for later this week.  Today I'm counting my blessings.

(Silje during the judging of her fairy garden.)

-My kids did just great at the fair.  They were helpful and polite.  I was so proud of them.  There has been several days this last week where I'm just soaking in and loving the ages my kids are at right now. We've had massive meltdowns this week due to fatigue and fair food, and general busyness, but those were just small moments.

-My car insurance requested that I be seen by a different chiropractor of their choice for evaluation.  They brought in a guy who lives 3 hours away, and told me to meet him at my local hospital, where it took them 50 minutes to find us a room for the examination.  Knut happened to be able to be home that day, so I left him with the kids and sat in that waiting room for them to locate a room for us.

(I have no idea how my appointment went.  They guy was really nice, and basically took some specific measurements of my range of motion and such.  He said he was going to send all those measurements to the people who requested them and that's all he knew.)

Anyway, I got 50 minutes of uninterrupted knitting time in the waiting room.  What a big surprise blessing!  It's so hard for me to find moments like that.

-I'm likely getting an iPhone today.  About 30-50% of my calls and texts have not been getting through to me over the last year or so.  We've complained the our server, and they gave us a discount, but did not fix it.  We're switching companies today, and Knut wants to upgrade me to a smartphone.  Since my laptop is Mac, it would make sense to stay with that so they can sync up.  He's mostly decided to stick with a regular cell.  His job is very hard on phones.  I've been pretty resistant to jump on the smartphone bandwagon the last few years.  It just feels so excessive for my needs, and I see many people who have them just stare at them all the time.  Not that I'm judging, because I know I am the same way.  That's why I didn't want one.  I didn't want the temptation in front of me.  I know how addicted to stuff I get.

But our internet often will go out for a day or week without notice, especially in the winter.  There are very few internet options out here in the country.  I run a pattern business, and it's been tricky when I lose my internet and I have emails that need to get out to editors or customers.  Hauling all the kids to the library so I can write an email doesn't exactly work.  So we decided it would be a good idea for me to have this backup.

Anyway, Knut talked me into it, thinking there's some features that will really help me with my job of mothering, keeping the house and homeschooling etc.  I guess there are some great apps.  Right now our kids are only allowed to go on the iPad and computer for game time on Saturday and Sunday, and I don't think my iPhone will be an exception to that rule.  In fact, at least to start off, I don't plan on them using it at all.  So other than kids' games, I would really love if you readers would recommend some apps for me.  I'd love to know what's good out there.

-The raspberries started to kick it into high gear at the end of last week.  I'm planning on canning some more raspberry syrup for pancakes.  I also found a recipe for raspberry chocolate syrup for ice cream that can be canned.  I don't plan on making any jam out of it, as I'm already overfilled with jam from the strawberries.

-The big kids offered to help out around the house so much this week (they were constantly trying to convince me to go back to the fair) that on Saturday I had the opportunity to really do some deep cleaning on our school shelves and cabinets.  I spent hours reorganizing and purging things.  The room feels so clean and clutter-free now.  Again, I have some fun pictures to show you with what I did for school prep next year, but that's for another, longer post.

To finish out this completely random post today, I'm sharing a picture of our Cheetah-girl, to make you smile.  Remember, you're blessed too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yarn Along

I got a surprising amount of knitting done this week.  My evenings were clear for the most part after the kids went to bed, and I force myself to sit a bit.  The kids are old enough to shell peas during the day, so my fussy garden things that used to consume my evenings in years past are now being handed down.  I'm working on the right sleeve for my Cozy Morning Sweater.  I'm pinching myself a bit on how well this sweater is coming together.  All my charts are now complete, and it's a only a matter of finishing up the knitting, and then finishing the grading the pattern for various sizes.  That's always the tricky part.

I'm still working on my homeschooling preparation for this fall.  I've been completely enraptured with How to Teach your Children Shakespeare.  This is not directed towards homeschoolers, but parents in general.  I studied Shakespeare in college, but have no idea how to make it interesting for the kids at their ages.  This author started having his children memorize passages of Shakespeare starting around age 6.

In this book, he outlines 25 passages of Shakespeare's plays that are perfect for children's memorization, and outlines how various things in each passage to teach kids about Shakespeare from the stories in his plays to what various words mean.  I've always studied Shakespeare from a literary perspective, but this author sees Shakespeare from a theater perspective.  I'm learning a lot just from this change of perspective.  Things like how Shakespeare outlines the speed and tempo of the lines through syllable placement makes these readings seem almost musical.

I'm now at that place in planning for the year when I realize I cannot do all the things, and I must decide which things we will do this year.  The good news is, we don't have to learn everything this year.  It's okay if we learn things next year too.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along,

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm Blessed

I hate activities.

What a great way to start out this post, right?  I'm smacking you with honesty.  I want to be a hermit.  I want to spend my days at home, and not have to go anywhere.  I want to invite people over to my house, at my convenience, one at a time.

Alas, not everyone in my family is like me.  In fact, life in general isn't about me, is it?  I like to think it is, but that is not the life God has called any of us to.

Thankfully, last week after we finished up another summer activity week, I looked at this coming week, and the new activity going on this week as the kids are bringing all of their 4-H projects to the county fair and such, and knew I would be losing my mind just about now in preparation and running here and there, and so I called up one of my friends to babysit for me for a bit today so I can get some time alone to mentally prepare for the "did you pack this in the car, and I can't find my shoe, and hurry up we're 20 minutes late, and she colored all over my project, and what's for supper, and did you call the insurance guy yet?" sort of week.

As my mom always says, it's not that introverts don't like people, and extroverts like people, it's that introverts get their energy being alone, and spend it being with people, and extroverts get energized by being with people and spend their energy being alone.  I get energized by being alone.  So today I actually scheduled it in on the calendar.

I'm so blessed to have a friend who is serving my family this way.  Community is amazing, truly.  Maybe the hermit thing is overrated.

Knut spent Saturday making our front porch not squishy to walk on anymore.  It still could use a new coat of paint and sealer.  But now all of the support boards that were rotting are new.  The old boards were put back on top, and the rest is for another weekend.  I'm so blessed to have a husband who helps out in these ways.  I got a lot of meals in the freezer this weekend in preparation of another week of being gone during supper-prep hours, and massive amounts of garden harvesting and preserving overtaking my kitchen.  I think that will make a big difference.

Not that long ago, I was talking with Knut's aunt.  We were just chatting and she asked how I was doing, and I said busy and tired.  She told me that she always remember when her mom (Knut's grandma, now about 95) was gardening and preserving and just being the on-call support person for Knut's grandpa on this same farm, she always lost a lot of weight in the summer.  Knut's grandma is a slim person to begin with, but the exhaustion took it's toll every year on her.  I don't know…somehow this comment made me feel better, like I was in good company.  Plus, I know she loved it, as much work as it was.  I remember not that many years ago (7 maybe?) she was my neighbor 2 doors down as we were renting and waiting to move out to this old house.  She was still crawling around on the ground, hunting strawberries in her patch until her kids decided she's probably too old to be doing that.  They were right, and literally had to dig up everything otherwise the thought of good food just sitting out there would drive her mad.

She and Knut's grandpa remain my favorite neighbors around here.  Oh they bless me.

I'm learning that happiness is a mood.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  It goes along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control.  Life is crazy right now, and I am tempted to look back at lazy days when the family is snowed in, reading books by the fireplace, but it's all a lie.  I'm being dumped with blessings right now.  One of the reasons I'm so crazy busy is our garden is producing so much food.  Seriously, how can one complain about the work of managing too much food?  With much abundance comes much work.  What's that proverb?  Something about empty cattle stalls require no cleaning?  I'm blessed with kids, with food, with friends, with work (yes that's a blessing too!).  I'm blessed with rest and encouragement from loved ones, and big smiles from my little ones every morning.

How have you been blessed?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Handful Harvest

(Starting at the strawberries and going clockwise)

The strawberries are finally beginning to dwindle.  There's not more than 20 strawberries left in the patch to be picked over the next few days.

My herb garden is doing well besides being full of grass.  I hope to dry several herbs for cooking and teas this year.  I picked a handful of thyme to dry.  I love using thyme in chicken broth.

Only a handful of peas are ready, but in a day or two we'll have buckets.  The kids were delighted to eat them raw right out of the pods.  It is by far their favorite summer treat.  I wish that I would have planted more.

I picked a bunch of mint to dry too.  I'm hoping to dry it for peppermint tea.  This is my first year growing this, and I'm glad I decided to keep it in a pot and not put it in the ground as it's growing like crazy just like everyone says it does.  We've been putting some in water, in sun-tea, and it's great chopped up in a fruit salad.

The raspberries bushes just had a handful ready, though it will be small buckets in a few days as well.  It's just so barely starting.

Last but not least, the chamomile is in bloom, and I intend to grow my own chamomile tea for this winter.  It's another first for me.  These miniature daisy-like flowers smell so delicious, I hope they'll keep coming because this isn't nearly enough.

Although these little bits and handfuls of harvests aren't much for putting away (besides the herbs), and we're just eating them as we pick them, I must admit this little bit of a "breather" is just what I needed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Yarn Along

I've finished up the Lady Pearl Sweater, and I'm working hard on the Cozy Morning Sweater.  The Lady Pearl will get written up next week, and then off to the tech editor.  So far that one is actually on schedule to be published next month on time.  Yeah!

The Cozy Morning Sweater has been my most complicated pattern I've written to date.  I'm not sure if it  will sell well because of that, but on the other hand, it might just be my favorite design I've done thus far.  Maybe there will be others out there who want to do something spectacular.  It's a bit of a gamble.  I have the body design completed, and the yoke charts completed.  Now I need to work on the sleeves, because the sleeves will be connected to the body and the yoke will be finished circularly all in one piece.  So now I'm working on the charts for the sleeves.  The yoke chart took me way too long, so I'm dreading working on the sleeve charts.  I'm loving knitting this, but there are a few complex parts and so I need to set aside time without interruptions to chart it.  In the mean time, I need to find something simple to knit while I'm just hanging out in the evenings with Knut.  I seem to have this knack for having a lineup of projects needing writing/charting/math attention, and whipping through the stockinette portion of patterns.  I have a babysitter lined up for a morning next week to devote totally to working the math all out.

I'm reading Tom Sawyer in preparation for school next year.  I'm not sure if I've read this all the way through before, but I'm reading sections aloud to Knut as they're just too funny not to share and we're both just cracking up.  The chapter of the whitewashed fence…oh my.  What a literary treasure.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Garden Update

We joke in this house that I have a bit of a black thumb.  I have a history of killing plants.  Over winter, I was talking to Knut about how I was dreading this year's gardening season, which surprised him.  I love fresh grown food.  I do enjoy many aspects of the garden.  It's just…when you're married to a farmer…there's just so much pressure.  My garden always has masses of weeds in it.  I remember how terribly teased I was the first time I planted seeds and gasp! my rows came up crooked.  Farmers don't like crooked rows.  It was a major moment where my "city" shone through.  Our garden is right off of our gravel driveway, and all the farm's semi trucks, and several farm vendors drive past it throughout the gardening year.  The pressure to make it "farm worthy" was just too much.  I just began to loathe it. It got to the point that Knut wasn't even allowed to mention weeds, or anything negative at all in the garden without me bursting into tears.  And believe me, there was plenty to point out.  Remember I have a knack for killing plants.  Except weeds, that is.  I'm great at growing those.  I'm a pro.

It was during those cold winter conversations when Knut gave me such freedom this year.  I think he saw I was ready to throw in the towel to gardening in general because it had lost all joy.  This year, we're doing it my way.  If I want to plant the rows in squiggly lines, as long as it gives me joy than do it.  If I want to experiment with a new gardening style, then seize the day.  Just do it.  Try new things, new varieties, be fine with failure.  Enjoy the journey.  His encouragement brought lots of change this year.

We planned to move the garden to a different location, for a bit more privacy, but more importantly, to get the garden out of the whipping wind.  Knut suspected that the soil in our garden was quite nutrient deficient and that's why there were certain crops I just couldn't get to survive.  This lower garden had been repeatedly tilled, and I would like to move to a mulch/no-till garden in the future.  In fact, I was able to move some of this garden to the mulch style of gardening and so far I'm loving it.  So the plan was to cut into the grass up near the chicken coop a new gardening space in more French style beds, with a "companion gardening" twist to it.  Companion gardening, I read, was planting certain crops together that benefit each other.  It allows for denser spacing, and therefore, less weeding.  Sounds good.

(The "old garden" this year)

The "old garden" I'm slowly turning into my garden for perennial crops like strawberries, raspberries, and this spring I planted several cutting flower bulbs.  Those 3 crops should take over the garden within a few years, but in the meantime, we planted several of our "old" crops down there because the garden we dug up by the coop was smaller than I expected, and I could use a bit more space.

What was funny was that last year the garden pretty much went to seed as my back and neck were throbbing from my injury and I just couldn't keep up.  This spring, close to 15 tomato plants came up in their location from last year.  I know we should have dug them up.  I don't need 15 more tomato plants. 6 is a good number for me, and that's what I bought.  Knut left them there, though, and said we can just swim in tomatoes.  Surprisingly, I'm totally fine with that.  "Whatever dude."  That's my mantra to this year's garden.  He's uncertain whether or not they'll even produce tomatoes, but I don't see why not.  If anything, they're deterring weeds, and doing their duty there so far.

We normally don't plant potatoes, but this year we have 3 big rows of them.  Again, we needed to put something in the empty space that the perennials would grow into to protect from weeds, and this will be a special treat.  I do love garden potatoes, but Knut tends to struggle with his weight a bunch when I serve them, so I rarely do.  I'm not sure how his ski season will go if I serve him all these potatoes.  People might be getting them for Christmas or something.

The big thing that has helped this year is that Knut has been much more on top of the weeding than I have ever been.  Maybe it had something to do with the frustrations of machinery not working when it was supposed to this spring, and waiting for things to get fixed.  He was just out there a lot, and the garden looks better than it ever has.

(part of the "new garden" this year)  

He even wanted to add his own experiment to our new garden, which looks kind of crazy this year.  I'm certainly taking note as to which of these new gardening techniques I like and which I don't!  He had seen on one farm tomato plants staked by having supports run above them, and had their heavy limbs tied up for support.  He wanted to try it, and I said, "why not?"  This is where I planted the tomatoes that I bought for this year.  The tomatoes that came up randomly in the old garden will be staked the old way.  So it's basically the new garden is turning into our very uncontrolled experiment garden where we're trying out every gardening technique we've ever wanted to all at the same time.  It's a blast.  I love being a gardening rebel.