September 29, 2016

Bees love moonflowers at dusk

Next to the back of our house there is a patch of moonflowers that I cut back every year and they grow back stronger and more expansive every summer.  By September they have taken over the entire bed that they grow in and my husband has to mow the edges to keep them from coming out into the yard!

I went out to see the blooms open a few nights ago as the sun was setting.  They are perfect, lovely iridescent white flowers that close during the hottest, brightest part of the day then open again when it cools and the light softens.

What I didn't expect was the swarm of bees ecstatically bathing in the moonflowers' pollen.  What a hum they made as they passed from blossom to blossom covering their little bodies with fairy dust!  Watch a video of it I made on YouTube.

September 28, 2016

Time to slow down

This time of year, I begin to feel myself and our life on the farm slow down a bit.  The garden has born its final fruits of the summer and been covered in mulch for the winter.  With this, the rush to preserve things as they come in has calmed significantly.  I've cut back many of my flower beds so that they can rest until next spring.  The grass is slowing down and doesn't need to be cut as often. 

This year, though, I'm feeling like the projects have continued, simply morphing into cooler weather things like planting grass.  So even though I'm feeling sluggish and like it's time to rest - the work continues. 

That's partly why I haven't been writing too much lately.  I get to the end of the day and I wonder: where did the time and all my energy go off to?

I had a kind friend ask if I am ok since I haven't written in a while. I do so appreciate those of you who read my posts and care enough to check on us when I lapse in keeping up the blog.  It warms the heart to have good people like you in one's life.

Combined with my general sense of too much to do and not enough time in the shortening days, I have also started a new job as a Toddler Montessori teacher.  This is a new adventure for me as I have never taught children this young before and I'm in a much bigger school which adds layers of complexity.  If I'm honest, I'm feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted too from this crash course in toddler needs and development, working with a new team of teachers, and learning about how this wider school community functions. 

Me, being me, I had to bring some nature into our classroom.  This week I set up a nature table by the window for the children to explore.  I covered it in a beautiful clean white tablecloth so it would be inviting.  Then I brought in all kinds of things I found on my evening walk: acorns of various sizes and textures, a bumpy little gourd, a big piece of tree bark, some fallen leaves, a hickory nut shell the squirrels had emptied, some seeds from a maple tree, and a jar of stink bugs.  I added a magnifying glass as well.  I set everything up then introduced them to the work.  

What a joy to watch!  Some children were excited ("Look!  Stink bugs!  Stink bugs!").  Some were quietly intrigued ("Feel this, it's so bumpy.").  All were interested and engaged.  Nature has a special power.  I'm excited to be able to share this love of mine with another group of children.

So I mentioned that we put the garden to sleep.  I had some helpers one weekend to clear out the last of what was growing.  Oliver cut off all the remaining green tomatoes.  

Baxter picked out the sweet potatoes from their buckets. 

Oliver cut off the last okra and dug up the stalks.  

Baxter helped me pull the beans off their trellis.  I handed him an extra large one that had grown unnoticed way at the top.  The imagination of a child- first it was Pinocchio's nose...

then an instrument to play...

then...well you can guess what it was. 

Gotta love little boys!

The tomatoes I pickled in big thick slices so that I can fry them up as friend green tomatoes this winter.  The peppers are drying on the windowsill to make red pepper flakes.  

The okra became Creole Spiced Okra; the beans - Dilly Beans.  Are you starting to see why I'm feeling like it's time for a rest?

We have also fenced off a large area around the chicken coop, filled in low spots with dirt, planted grass seed and covered it with straw.  After construction of the lean-tos this summer, there were lots of low spots which created trip hazard all over the place.  It's also a huge muddy mess when it rains.  We are hopeful that we can get most of the area re-established with grass this fall.  It is quite a challenge to grow grass with chickens though!  Let me tell you, if anyone ever says chickens can't fly they are lying to you.  Those darned chicken were in there eating grass not five minutes after we finished the fencing. 

Other projects in progress right now include training Roscoe (our chicken protector rescue dog), figuring out how to ferment feed, exploring new outlets for selling our eggs, trying out cheese-making, learning a new way to manage pool chemistry with fewer chemicals, and finding moments to enjoy this beautiful new cooler weather.  More to come on these...

Thank you again to those of you who care enough to connect with us and share in our busy life and adventures here at the farm.  I will do my best to keep up with my writing both for you and for my own sake as I seek to find balance between the work and time for rest.

Have a lovely fall evening.

September 13, 2016

A little chicken whisperer

We had a family dinner this past weekend and my brother brought over his two young children. Little Bailey wanted to go out right away, as usual, to see the birds. She goes out in the yard and says, "chickies!  hi chickies!" and the girls come running. They come close and she giggles. 

After dinner Bailey was playing with some little figurines in the family room. She was trying to carry so many that they were dropping so I went and got her a small basket to put them in. Seeing the basket, she dropped the toys like hot potatoes and went to the back door. She asked, "go see chickens? eggs?" 

That's a child of my own heart who would choose going outside to explore over playing with toys any day of the week!  She's trained now that baskets are used to collect eggs :)

Here she is chattering with my aunt by the garden. 

She got several chicken eggs and the real prize, a duck egg. 

We had to have a little chat about not swinging the basket around...

I just love those little pigtails! 

That's a happy child.  I'm grateful we have these little people in our life to share all of this with. Being on the farm with them reminds you of the ever present wonder in this life we live day to day. 

September 8, 2016

Geocaching, fun for the whole family

We had another little family adventure yesterday doing something called geocaching. McGregor, my eldest stepson, is really into this online scavenger hunt experience. Initially I wasn't too excited about something else to do on the computer but the more I learned about it, the more intrigued I was. 

So the idea is that people make a little treasure for you to find then hide it out in the world. They mark it on this online map and sometimes give clues for how to find it. You go look and when you discover it, often there is a log inside where you can add your name and see how many others have also found it. Sometimes there is a little item inside you can trade for something else as well. 

We first went looking for an "easy" one just up the street from us, which was tucked into a stop sign. While the older two looked with their dad, Baxter had fun running through a huge drainage pipe nearby, making his voice echo out to me. 

Next we set out to find an old cemetery in Batavia. That one was fun because it required finding a certain tombstone, lining the top of it up with another and then following the path. Inside we found this poetic message:

There were some beautiful old stones in the cemetery too. It was a good opportunity to walk around a little and see that cemeteries aren't so scary. Initially Oliver didn't want to go in because it freaked him out but it didn't take long for him to see it wasn't so bad. 

Lastly, we found another hidden cemetery in Batavia where we went out in search of a geocache hidden in the woods. To find the spot in the woods we first had to locate a specific stone. Now this cemetery was much larger, so that first step took us a while. 

There were some interesting old buildings to look at as we walked too. 

We did find the stone but couldn't locate the small can hidden in the woods behind it.  The sun began to set so we decided to come back and look again next week. 

What a wonderful family activity!  It's engaging, active, you can do it almost anywhere and it's even free. I'm a believer now and I see a lot of geocaching in our family's future. 

September 7, 2016

Cupcake is laying!

Our little Cupcake, the duck hatched by a chicken, is beginning to lay eggs. Hers (right) are smaller than a full grown duck's eggs (left) just like how a chicken's eggs start out small and get larger as they lay more. As expected, she lays her eggs in the henhouse with the chickens. She's a little confused but we love her anyways. ❤️🐓🐥🍳❤️ 

September 5, 2016

"We are so lucky." -Oliver, age 7

Yesterday was one of those amazing summer-moving-into-fall days.  It was sunny but the tilt of the sun in the sky made lots of good shade, the temperature was a bit cooler and the breeze was pleasant.  We set off mid-day - two adults, three boys and three dogs - for a family outing to the east fork of the Little Miami River, which is right across the street from our house.  The boys were dressed for swimming and exploring, and we were all excited to see how our new dog would like the river this time.  Each time he's been there, he's gotten more adventurous. 

When we arrived, I put Roscoe on his long rope leash so he could explore.  He followed Oliver right into the water and laid down so that the water was flowing into his mouth. 

Baxter was on the look out for crawdads from the start.

He is a whiz at catching them now.  Last year, when we would go down he was so afraid that they would pinch his finger with their tiny lobster claws, but he seems to have moved past that.  I love that look of pure happiness and deep curiosity that only the natural world can inspire.

Soju, our miniature Schnauzer, loves to wade through the shallow water.  So long as it doesn't touch her belly she's happy as can be.  She runs from island to island sniffing and checking things out.

Even Doodle, who generally doesn't like to get even her paws wet, joined in the family adventure.  Josh coaxed her out to the first island and then she followed us as we made our way up river.  

We spent about two hours wading, collecting cool shells and rocks, trying to capture small critters, and exploring various islands we hadn't been over to before.  I find days like this so relaxing and revitalizing.  Fresh air, cool water, warm sunshine, slimy moss, squishy sand and mud, smooth shells, perfectly flat skipping stones, and shimmery fish swimming by your legs - these are all ingredients for a happy childhood and a perfect day.  

As Oliver put it on our walk home: I love our house.  We are so lucky.