Friday, June 30, 2006


We got a small box from Rainbow Resources yesterday - mostly art supplies. I find that many of their things (Sculpty) are much cheaper than I can get them closer to home. Unless I am desperate for something, I keep a list and order when I can make the free shipping minimum. Anyway, we got the box filled with supplies needed for projects in the Living History book we will begin using in August and some art stuff. We opened the box and the children have been busy for hours and hours. I doubt the supplies will last until August at this rate. In fact they may be gone by tomorrow morning.

I want them to feel free to do art or science anytime, but I have such a hard time keeping supplies on hand that I feel like I should hoard then ration. I like to purchase the supplies for projects and experiments well before they are scheduled to appear in "school" because we can't just run into town to pick up something unless it is super basic. Yet, when we get ready to do the project we have to purchase again because the children have gotten excited about new supplies and done an art marathon - a vicious learning cycle. How happy they are scuplting and painting.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Morning Corn

This morning at chicken release (5:30 a.m.) my husband picked corn while I readied the kitchen for processing. After the corn was picked, I woke my children and they assembled at the fence to help shuck and silk. They stood at the fence so the cows could eat the leftovers. I began blanching and cutting. At 7:30 my husband left for work and the children finished the shucking. Before 9:00 all corn was cut from the cob and safely in the freezer for a winter treat. I lost count, but I think we processed about 200 ears.

I like when we work together on a task. It doesn't happen as often as I would like. My husband works off the farm and so we split the jobs that need to be done here and frequently don't get to spend time with each other when we are farming. This morning, there was much silly singing, karate chopping and tossing of corn. A great time was had by all.

When we were finished the children fried some bacon and scrambled some eggs for us and we talked about the few worms in the corn, how the scout bees thought the shucked corn was something to pollinate, how quickly we got finished, and how many bags were put in the freezer. Productivity feels good, especially if you get to share it with your family.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm missing my friend Butch

Remember Butch, my crusty old sailor friend. I miss him these hot, tomato picking days. He, of course, would be telling me how I couldn't grow a *@#! tomato or pepper if my life depended on it. I would ignore his salty mouth and learn everything I could. Even after spending much time watching him nurture his peppers, I still can't grow a pepper. I blame it on the weather this year, but I can't laugh as much about it because I can't go over to his house with a 5 gallon bucket to get jalapenos for salsa, cayennes for pepper sauce, chiles for a ristra, or pablanos for stuffing.

I know it is weird to miss someone who is so crusty, but I do. I miss seeing him swell with pride when we looked at his garden with its weedless rows and rainbow of brightly colored peppers and tomatoes. I miss taking his care packages to his friends and mailing tomatoes to his daughter. I miss his stories and advice.


Mimosa, not the champagne kind, are blooming now. Mimosa is not a native species and is very invasive. Thank goodness we don't have any on our property because I probably wouldn't have the heart to cut them down. The pink pom-poms and fern like leaves are pretty on the roadsides. In the fall they get these pea-like seed pods that are beautiful. Unfortunately, mimosa is a nuisance.

This plant like wisteria, kudzu, nandina and others got planted in someone's formal garden and vigorously reproduced and ran wild. Now, mimosa is everywhere (except our property) and I think of it as having a bit of Southern history.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meet you at The Homeschool Cafe

Grab a cup and meet me at The Homeschool Cafe for delish news and information in week 26 of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

The First Tomato Sandwich

My father came to get my children for lunch and my husband is raking hay on his lunch break (for those of you keeping up with farm life this field produced less than half of normal) so I indulged in my first tomato sandwich of the season.

My children and husband don't enjoy the perfection of a tomato sandwich. Homemade bread, huge slabs of tomato, good mayonnaise, a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper create a sweet, tart, salty perfection only to be found in the few short months of summer.

When I was growing up I never liked tomatoes unless they were in spaghetti sauce or ketchup. My parents raved and raved about the first tomato sandwich of the season and I remember thinking "Yuk!" My taste buds have matured and now I understand the simple perfection of this lowly sandwich.

I will share a few tomatoes with my parents so they can have their first taste of summer.

Monday, June 26, 2006


My son has been at it, again. I get great pleasure from my iTunes play lists. I can choose a list to suit my mood - calm rage, lift spirits, salve wounded psyche, wax nostalgic, celebrate euphoria, or garner strength. A few days ago, the Bee Gees Jive Talking showed up on the play list I am working on for my Mother (Did anyone think of the name of that song?). My son uses iTunes and has his own play list, and though I couldn't imagine why he would want that song, I just assumed his finger slipped and accidentally placed that song in Mom's list.

This morning, I was listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 and the Bee Gees Jive Talking popped up between movement 2 and 3. I, again, suspected nothing. This afternoon, as I was winding down, I put on my five o'clock list and guess what? Jive Talking, yet again. Understanding of slips of the mouse, but not stupid, I looked at all the play lists. Every one of them has at least one instance of Jive Talking some have two or three. I called for my son to come explain. He didn't have to come too far. He was standing outside the window, sniggering.

Why the Bee Gees? How did he know that would be funny? We have never played that song in this house. I have never gotten that sentimental. He got it from a Rock Legends CD that some sales person gave my husband.

He got the laugh he was seeking. Good Joke!

Cool Free Resources for On the Go Homeschoolers

We spend a great deal of time in the car or waiting for a lesson to be finished. I always take books, books on tape, math fact practice, or Latin pronunciation practice. But, sometimes we want more - a little something different. I have found a solution or a few solutions - Podcasts!

Podcasts have become popular because so many people have high speed internet and mp3 players and because many people find it difficult to tune in to a particular series because of so many other time commitments. NPR, National Geographic, NASA and others have made it easy to find the stories in your interest area. Once you subscribe to the podcast or sometimes before, you can pick and choose the episodes you would like to hear or fit into your current study. You may then download and listen to the podcasts at your convenience, as many times as you like. I hate it when there is a great story on the radio and we get to ballet and I have to get out of the car and miss 10 minutes or the end. You don't have that problem with podcasts - just click pause.

Here is a sampler of some of the educational podcasts available:
  • American Experience: a PBS production -- American Experience is a History Podcast with topics such as Riding the Rails, Behind the Scenes: The Man Behind Hitler, Annie Oakley, Jessie James, and Victory in the Pacific. The time on these range from 5 minutes to 26 minutes.
  • Nova --Short science stories from Nova are as diverse as can possibly be. There are stories about Mummies, Hurricanes, or Wetland Restoration.
  • NPR Expeditions from National Geographic -- Typical stories include A Journey to the Edge of the Amazon, Societies of Sound in the Forest (insect sounds), and Sacred protection for Medicinal Plants.
  • Science @ NASA -- Great stories from NASA like The Pull of Jupiter, Jupiter's New Red Spot, Planets around Dead Stars, and Suit Sat.
  • NPR - Story of the Day --These stories are not all suitable for child listeners but stories like Chocolate's countless varieties, Dada on Display at the National Gallery, and In Praise of Don Knotts are interesting family choices.
  • Nature Stories - Farming the Desert, Listening to the Private lives of Wolves, and Listening to the Northern Lights are a sampling of the stories in this environmental education podcast.
  • Nature - Audio highlights from the international journal nature. Podcast segments are longer and the content is a bit more advanced, but no less interesting. Articles like Undersea volcanoes, genetic causes of deafness, the balmy arctic, and poisonous frogs.
There are thousands of possibilities. Podcasts are being added daily and most are free! Something for everyone - even Latin readings - can be found in these emerging resources. Even though I linked to the individual sites, I use iTunes which is also free. You can search podcasts and subscribe in one place. Obviously, there are other options if you don't use iTunes. You may subscribe to NPR Podcasts at their website. You may google podcasts and your topic. I find all of that daunting because sometimes I don't know what I want. I like to browse.

What I do know is that our weekly travel time will be more interesting and more educational. Podcasts are not just for the car or iPod, I listen to the NPR Story of the Day and NPR Weekly Book Reviews while toiling away at my computer.

Are there fun, interesting, educational podcasts that I have missed?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Typing 101

My son's handwriting is not great. We will keep pursuing legible writing, but I will begin to teach typing/keyboarding or whatever it is called now. I took typing in ninth grade when there was no question what to call it with an ancient rigidly coiffed teacher who gave "business" (secretarial) instructors the type in stereotype. We all rushed to that class, not because the class was so exciting, but to stake out the few electric typewriters. Even though class was typically amusing, it had nothing to do with the lessons and everything to do with the frazzled older teacher managing (or not) her class. I digress.

Anyway, I began researching typing/keyboarding programs a while back and I found out a couple of things. No matter what program you use, learning to type is not exciting. No matter how many cutesy characters they intersperse into the lessons - typing is typing. I don't ever remember anyone saying in my whole life, "Oh, I love typing. Please let me type that paper for you." I do remember people making a good living in college typing papers.

Anyway, here are the resources I found. Some are better than others:
  • Typing instruction in a book (much like I used when I was in 9th grade). I looked at a few of these, but decided that since the computer was already involved, why not use it as a resource for instruction as well.
    • Typing for Kids! -- This is spiral bound, which is great for typing instruction since the pages lie flat, black and white line art book. The lessons take you slowly through the keyboard learning one or two keys per lesson. This is a basic approach and at $7.95 you can find much better in a computer oriented program.
    • Keyboarding Skills -- Another spiral bound book for typing instruction. This one loses the cutesy drawings and adds speed. This book will take you further faster. If you really want a book, this one is for the older audience who really wants to type. I think this one was $19.95, but I wasn't that interested so I forgot to document.
  • Typing computer programs -- I was stymied here for a while since most of the more documented programs have not kept up with technology or were not written for the Macintosh crowd. I eventually found several interesting typing tutors for modern machines (both Mac and PC) complete with bells and whistles.
    • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17 -- This is the newest of the Mavis Beacon typing empire (Make sure you get the version 17. The older programs are still floating around in the discount shops, but will not work with more modern machines). This program has oodles of bells and whistles, videos and arcade games, and lessons (231) and tests. This is a huge program. My question is this. Do you really need it all? The price is $40 or there about and you can download a free trial here.
    • -- Offers free typing instruction for both adults and children. The basics are covered in a basics section and then there are exercises in another section. There is nothing to stop the child from skipping the basics and moving into the exercises without instruction. Though the information in the basics section is sound, there is not as much practice of the basics to ensure that proper form or hand placement is achieved.
    • Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor -- I like this Viking Typing Teacher. The on screen keyboard shows where the correct letter is so you don't have to look down. Lessons are short, can be repeated, and you get live stats. Some of this information is not important for the 10 year old boy, but for the parent who likes to play with the children's school resources, having all of the information is just grand. Another adult or child bonus is iTune connectivity. You can actually type the lyrics of the song you are hearing (if the lyrics are available). This is a shareware program for all operating systems so you can try it for a few days before deciding.
    • Arcade Typing Tutor -- I am addicted to this program. The program is for practice only - no lessons here. You must shoot the meteors, spaceships, etc by typing the words associated object. Some of the spaceships shoot back, so be careful. Speed, only, is important. $11.99 and you are supporting a med school student - a feel good purchase for Mac only.
    • Master Gecko's Home Row - I like this program for my 6 year old - though I hadn't thought much about teaching her typing, yet. I can read her writing. A gecko teaches the keyboard, then he introduces you to his friends in a maze game. Obviously, home row refers to the asdf - jkl; on the keyboard and you move forward from that point. You can choose levels - beginner, intermediate, or expert. This is a cheap any operating system program.
    • There are hundreds of typing programs that I won't address here. This site gives you reviews and a screen shot of many of them. There should be something for everyone.
After looking at many, many programs, I purchased the Arcade Typing Tutor and Ten Thumbs. Now, I have to set aside some time for typing. Making it a priority, setting aside practice time, and insisting on consistency will create a young typist no matter which program you choose.

Reality Check

My vacuum cleaner ceased functioning a few weeks ago. I, finally, purchased a new one this week. I had to search for the perfect vacuum for this house. I needed one that would pick up well on wood floors and work on the rugs. I also needed something that had a hose that would reach the 17 foot ceilings to eliminate the cob webs and would clean all the little nooks and crannies. This is a tall order for one vacuum cleaner so it took me a while to find a good match.

Yesterday, I used the vacuum and I must say I am astounded by the dirt and pet hair in our house. This new vacuum has a feature I didn't need, a clear canister to capture the dirt. The new vacuum is one of those bag-less models, which I like. But, does the canister have to be clear? I am horrified at how dirty the house was. Yuk!

Maybe this is a good thing - another motivation to clean. Knowing how disgustingly dirty things are could inspire me to push the vacuum more. Or . . . I could institute a competition to see which room has the most dirt (or the least) by marking and emptying the canister after each room.

I do know that the new vacuum provided a reality check concerning the state of home maintenance. I need to get busy.

Friday, June 23, 2006


I just had my first real BLT of the season. By real, I mean . . .

I interrupt this blog for this wonderful news . . It has just started raining. I am so excited, thankful, relieved. This was not forecast and will not last, but right now it is raining - real rain, not just sprinkles.

OK, back to the BLT. By real, I mean with vine ripened tomatoes. I picked my first ripe sandwich tomato yesterday. I use my home-made wheat bread that is lightened with a bit of white flour, lightly toasted, slathered with some good mayonnaise. I add slices of thick cut, smoked bacon, two slabs of tomato and lettuce. Finish the sandwich with a drizzle of specially made balsamic vinaigrette. Not exactly low fat, but oh so yummy.

I wonder how long it will take for my sisters to get here? My younger sister drives the 3 hour round trip just for the sandwich.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Garden Helpers

This morning I was weeding the cantaloupe plants before they spread so that it is impossible to get around without crushing the plants. I know that they are trainable to a neat trellis, but I think they produce more if they get to run amuck. Plus, I like the chaos of never knowing where you might find the next melon.

Anyway, I heard tons of buzzing and there was a bee in almost every single bloom. I yelled for one of the children to get the camera. While I was waiting I noticed something that I had never noticed before. An individual bee does not enter the same flower twice. They move methodically from one flower to the next. If they come back to a flower I guess they can smell themselves because they don't enter - only hover above. Other insects or a different bee might come later, but the same individual does not re-enter. Cool. Think how many weeds I could have pulled while I was watching the bees.

Look what else I found - baby cantaloupe! My bees are obviously doing their job. So much is going on in the garden right now that I can barely keep up. I harvested more tomatoes. Weeded. Picked some yellow wax beans. Weeded. Watered. Weeded. Watered.

I need to stay out there all day, but the heat and humidity make gardening a morning venture.

May I Brag? Just a Little . . .

Last night for supper, I prepared a delicious fresh Tomato pasta sauce with basil, onions, and garlic. Everything except the olive oil was from my garden. The garlic was from the Winter garden and the onions from the Spring garden. I had enough to store so pride is due there as well. The basil and roma tomatoes are finally eatable and it appears I will have a bumper crop even with the way too cold and wet early season and way too hot and dry now.

Having bragged, I know reality will follow shortly. All the older people in town have produce no matter what the weather. I say something like, "I harvested 10 tomatoes yesterday," and they say "I canned 10 quarts last night." I say, "I put up 5 quarts of green beans yesterday" and they say "I think we have got 50, so far." Or they say, I have some extra ______ and hand me a grocery bag full when I have been secretly proud of my pitiable harvest. I am constantly humbled. And if I listen I can learn something new every year to improve my harvest and timing. But right now I am still feeling proud that I have tomatoes and basil ready to eat.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I have wax all over the kitchen. We harvested some honey a few days ago and some of the combs weren't nice enough to put in jars and we also have foundation that was removed from some old short(honey) frames that we set up and didn't get to use that got ruined during storage and moving. We needed the frames for this late honey flow so the children and I removed foundation and re-applied. All these piles of foundation and bowls of comb are sitting around waited to be cleaned. Cleaning wax is time consuming so it may sit there a while. To clean I put the wax in an old stocking (or ballet tight in our case) and place it in water. I, then, heat the water so that the wax melts and flows out of the stocking and the trash (bee parts and dirt) are left inside the stocking. Once the water cools you have a slab of wax on the top. Unfortunately, you sometimes have to repeat the process. The pot, as you can imagine, is waxy.

The children have asked at least a hundred times, just today, when the wax will be ready so they can make candles. It didn't get done today, maybe tomorrow.

The Midway of the Homeschool Country Fair is now open

Doc did a wonderful job putting together a completely clickable Fair. I am seriously behind schedule because of all the great posts, but I learned so much. Click on over to the Fourth Homeschool Country Fair!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Eating

For breakfast this morning I had peaches and watermelon. I first enjoyed about three completely juicy peaches, then I decided I needed a piece of the leftover watermelon from yesterday afternoon's watermelon break. I know I am a pig.

Both are locally grown and were picked at the peak of flavor. The peaches are from an orchard outside of Meridian and the watermelon is one of the famous Smith County melons. Biting into the fuzzy sweetness of a perfectly ripe peach brings a flood of childhood memories. Specifically, sitting on the back porch steps with my brother and a bushel of peaches eating one after the other with the hot humid air engulfing us. - a much needed break in the summer mischief. The watermelon reminds me of my mother karate chopping the melon with an enormous knife producing screams of encouragement and delight from all the children. A grocery store peach and melon do not produce this Proustian effect.

Food is just better when it is grown naturally, picked fresh and eaten immediately. I just don't like to think about how green the fruit was to be able to endure shipping across country. I don't want to think about all the chemicals and engineering needed to produce a mass market peach. Give me unbelievable sweetness and perfect texture for only a few short weeks, then I won't need to eat another peach or watermelon until next summer.

Tonight, we will have peach and blackberry cobbler with home-made ice cream for supper. We may not have anything else, but we will definitely have peaches.

I am suddenly reminded of The Box Car Children making meals of whatever was freshly available.

Monday, June 19, 2006

As Promised: My Failure Baggage

I scrounged through some of my old things and found the journal entry for the failure day in question. Unfortunately, dating the entry would have been too difficult and I didn't. I suppose it was about 15 years ago. One day, I will get over it. Maybe.

I will give a bit of background and then start the entry. I was teaching in Chicago and had this particular summer free. I spent the entire winter planning a section hike of the Appalachian Trail. I packed boxes to be sent. I hiked the Illinois Michigan Canal Trail in the snow. I hiked and stair climbed and hiked and stair climbed and packed and weighed, unpacked, repacked, weighed and planned. By the time school was out I was completely ready. My hubby (whose AT name is Stinger) took me to Springer Mountain, GA. Actually, we had to shuttle back to Springer because he was going to hike with me for a week. We hiked about 60 miles in that week and made it back to the car, even though a tropical depression blew in and stopped over us and everything we owned was wet and heavy - Oh, so heavy. Stinger felt I should come back to Chicago and I had to agree with him. Hiking in pouring rain for weeks on end is not the vacation I was seeking. But . . .
7/6 We slept kind of late, but when I awoke I decided I was ready to go on. My feet still hurt, but once you get into the rhythm of hiking you just want to go on. We got up and started washing all the wet, stinking clothes and drying the tent and pack. I went through and scrutinized everything in my pack to see if I could possibly do without it. I got rid of about 5 pounds in food, clothes, candles, sunblock. I also lost the extra weight of the wet tent and clothes. We stopped and got a good lunch and headed back to the trail.

As soon as we got to the parking lot I got scared but was convinced that I could do it - besides if I backed out what would everyone say. My first day would be 3 - 1,000 foot climbs within the first 5 miles. Tough, but doable even with fear and emotional turmoil. I marched up the hill after a couple of tearful embraces. I called down to Stinger crying and he came part of the way up the trail and we said goodbye for the fourth time. I kept going then realized that something was wrong. I had not passed a white blaze and I was going down hill. I retraced my steps and happened to see a sign about 100 Ft straight up the side of the mountain. I decided to go straight for that and I got off the trail and bush whacked up to the blaze. Sure enough, I had been on the wrong trail the whole time. Somewhat discouraging and in my emotional state I took it for a bad omen. I kept trudging ahead - still convinced this was what I wanted to do. I knew I could do it physically, now the psychological battle began - going solo in the wilderness is a tough thing and I was scared, not necessarily of the animals but spooky people I might meet.

At this moment Stinger hollers from the bottom of the mountain, "I love you." Then, "The forest is your friend." I started wailing. In that moment I knew that I wanted nothing more in life than to be with my overly romantic and supportive husband. I turned and started running - screaming my head off. "Don't leave me, don't leave." I knew that he was ready to go back to Chicago when he yelled and I was scared that I would get to the bottom and he would be gone. He was not yelling back. It was raining, again, and with all the rain before, the trail was so slick. I fell on a rock slide and my wrist -- Ouch!

I was undeterred. I got up and started running and screaming. Picture a hysterical, soaking wet woman carrying a 60 lb pack strapped to her back running and flailing arms while screaming, "Don't leave me. I don't want to do this." Pretty funny - huh! As scared and upset as I was I could still visualize and laugh at myself even while crying.

Stinger had the car running and was ready to pull out of the parking lot when he heard something and backed up. He got out and realized what was happening. I went back to Chicago with a wrist and hand the size of a water-filled surgical glove and a sense of embarrassment and failure that has not left me - even today.

I went back to the AT the following year with my sisters for a week. In fact, I went back for the next few years. Then, I had children. I took my son for two years, then was 8+ months pregnant the next year and couldn't go. The following year, my husband and I took both of the children. After that, I have not been able to go back.

Herein lies the problem and why I haven't been able lay aside that failure after all these years. I missed my opportunity. It was something I was capable of doing and I quit. I will go back - some day, but the gift of hiking a few months at a time are gone.

This is why I pushed my son beyond his comfort level to stay at camp. I realized before I completely ruined scouting for him, that I was placing too much value on finishing because I didn't and I regret it. You know, he has no such regret. I should have trusted him more.

And Central Mississippi Heaved a Tremendous Sigh of Relief

It rained! Not enough or for long enough, but rain it did. We got a little rain on Friday and more yesterday. Other people got rain on Saturday and not on Friday or Sunday. Some people got no rain and some had flash floods. I hope we got enough to green the pastures and grow the hay grass.

The picture is last night's sunset. I've heard that the truly beautiful sunsets are caused by dust in the atmosphere. Obviously, we didn't get enough rain to settle all the dust, but it was still raining as I took the picture. The pinks and purples were so vivid that I called everyone and we just stood there under the edge of the overhang and watched to see what would happen next. What a lovely way to end Father's Day.

The garden will need weeding today and the blackberries will need picking.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Rest of the Story

For those of you who are curious about the ending of the camp experience, here is the rest of the story. Tuesday, after my son called from the camp infirmary, I called my husband and he went and found the little camper. He seemed fine, but my husband kept a closer watch. Wednesday was the parents' night and I did not attend because I knew that if I went my son would come home. Thursday, my son woke and demanded to come home. My husband talked him into going to rifle practice/gun safety, first aid, lifesaving techniques and woodworking. Once those courses were over there was little left to persuade him to stay. He came home.

I thought he would feel like he was a quitter, but I guess we were putting that on him because he didn't. He said everyone in his troop understood and respected his decision. I honestly believe they did. We are lucky that he was able to be accepted so quickly by his troop and that his troop lives the true scouting spirit of growth from where you are.

As he was telling his story, I couldn't believe he wanted to come home because it sounded like he was having such a good time. He did have trouble with some of the things I thought he would like finding and keeping up with his stuff. My husband was so proud of him even though he came home early. He said everyone liked him and he participated in the skits (so much for the theory that homeschooling provides little opportunity for socialization), he was willing and able to do his part (getting the camp area ready for inspection and as wait staff at meals), he was respectful to all the leaders and did as he was asked (the first request), and his skills improved dramatically (swimming, lifesaving and first aid).

I am proud too. My ten year old son, who has never spent the night with my parents who live 3 miles from here, stayed four nights in a tent with another little boy. He struggled with homesickness and beat it for four nights and five and a half days. He passed his swimming test (even though he had never proved himself to be a strong swimmer) and went on to receive his lifesaving merit badge. He now has his firearm safety certificate which is mandatory in Mississippi to get a hunting license (of course he is not old enough to get that yet). He interacted with others. He raised the flag in a formal flag raising ceremony. He fulfilled his duty (even though no one was there to nag or remind) by getting to the dining hall on time, setting up the tables, serving food, and cleaning afterwards.

All of the failure baggage was mine and my husband's. He didn't fail. He tried. Even a week before the camp, I didn't believe he would go. He said he wanted to go but that he was scared. Now, he knows what to expect and has the confidence to make it all the way through, next time.

Stay tuned, I may share "my failure baggage" and why I didn't want him to quit. I may also try to sort out everything I learned from this experience and see if there are any kernels of wisdom to pass on.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Importance of Thirty Minutes

I know most people are stopping by to see if I have collapsed under the pressure of having my son away at camp. I haven't, yet. I've had much to keep me busy. Cows escaping everywhere day and night, my regular work, weighing cows for shipping (for my husband who is at camp), and a not feeling so well child have kept me busy enough to not panic.

Yesterday, I read a blog entry at Mental Multi-vitamin that is still making me think. Ms MMv wrote about escaping the heat in a bedroom with a small rabbit eared television in which they watched Bay Watch with their young son. The post was funny. I even chuckled in my pained, separation anxiety state. But, the lasting message is what is working on me today.

If one television show on one day, can mold the behavior of a child for ten years, think of the lasting implications of other decisions we make for our children. Learning lifesaving skills is positive even if it is done because of Bay Watch. I know it is impossible to shield your children from every unsavory morsel of pop culture and if you tried you might miss positive things like Bay Watch swimming lessons. I also know that much of what is out there in schools, on television, and in malls is not going to inspire anyone to greater heights. Thinking of all the wasted, ridiculous, or alarming 30 minute segments in the public and private school day gives me another reason to homeschool.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Camp Update #2

My son just called from the infirmary at the camp. He has been stung on the eye lid by a wasp (only 2 weeks ago I was stung on the eye by a honey bee so know how miserable he could be). He wanted to know if he was allergic to the benedryl and tylenol they were about to give him. He sounded like he was doing everything in this power to be tough. I don't know why boys feel like they can't cry. I have never taught that behavior. In my opinion, crying is highly under-rated.

He wanted me to come for parent's night tomorrow night and take him home. He said he was having a good time except at night. To my credit, I didn't start crying until I finished talking to him. I am so torn. On one hand I know there are important lessons to be learned by sticking with a tough project. On the other hand, I feel it is important for him to know he is always welcome at home and that I will come if he needs me.

I called my husband who is at the camp. He will check on the young camper and report to me in a few minutes.

Camp Update

I don't know why I bother to worry about things so much. Most things seem to work out and if they don't, I usually do what I can to "fix" it and move on. I worried hours and hours about my son and his first camp experience. Going to camp was a huge step for him, who has rarely even wanted to spend one night away from home. I wanted him to have a good time so he would want to go more, so I worried - for no good reason.

My husband had been "on call" as a substitute leader (he is a cub master, but helps with the Boy Scouts) for the camp and he got called up Sunday Night, so my son had his daddy after only a few hours of being on his own. My husband doesn't share a tent, or even go around with my son's group, but he is able to check in, periodically. According to my husband, my son is taking advantage of all camp has to offer, though gets sad at night when things start winding down. He closed the rifle range last night (as he probably will every night) and he swam, worked toward his first aid badge, did leather crafting, and has already visited the infirmary because he has blisters that have popped on the palms of his hands.

On the busy home front, I had to take the Princess to the doctor yesterday because she woke up in the middle of the night saying her throat was closing and making these awful noises though she was perfectly healthy before she went to bed. The doctor said she looked healthy and that he could find nothing wrong with her, that possibly she had had some sort of viral croup. Scary, but obviously not serious. Our doctor is an hour and fifteen minutes away so that melted away a big part of the day. When we got back, I worked a little, then went home to find the cow and calf pair that we had in the holding pen had escaped. The Princess and I ate dinner with my mom and dad and then we went to the next town to the funeral home.

The lady who died was the nurse in the doctor's office of my childhood. Nurses and doctors were different then. The nurses didn't bounce around from one practice to the next, they were closely associated with one doctor. Dr. Bill's office would not have been the same if Ms Virginia hadn't been there. Dr. Bill and Ms Virginia stitched my wounds, healed me when I was sick, and even pierced my ears.

This morning, I woke to find the charolais bull in the pen with our replacement heifers. This is not good. They are still too young and that bull produces calves that are huge - not a good thing for the first time. Work. Work. Work.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My son left and I didn't cry

Yet! I know he will have a great time and I know it is time for him to fledge, but I am worried that he won't be happy, won't be able to keep up with his stuff, and won't be comfortable enough to ask for help. I am going to spend some quality time with my little princess and do some much needed catch up and cleaning this week. I will keep myself busy so I won't think about all the possibilities.

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle blooms profusely in almost every yard in Mississippi and in almost every color and shape imaginable. This low maintenance summer bloomer puts on an almost obscene show with its huge showy blossoms of white, pale pink, lavender, and hot pink. I have two Natchez White Crepe Myrtles at the front of the house along with the gardenia. This hot pink, nameless 100 year old tree is on the patio we constructed around the tree. I can see it from my office window.

Rick Griffin, a landscape architect, came over soon after we moved into this old place. We wanted to get a plan of the hardscapes before we did too much planting. I was lamenting that the workers had mutilated this old crepe myrtle and he said, "You can't kill them." He is frequently horrified at the atrocious pruning that most people perform on these beautiful trees. The cities often plant these in the median and then yearly go through and cut the tops out. Rick Griffin calls it "Crepe Murder" though the plants don't die, they look like they had died and gone to hell.

I, too, like the natural look with light pruning each year to train and increase blooms. When my mother's crepe myrtles bloom I will take a picture because it creates a fairy land underneath the spreading old growth. They almost look like giant pink mushrooms.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Update on Camp Packing

Thanks to mul-berry, Doc, Susan and others who have e-mailed, I am making tremendous progress in the packing project. The list mul-berry found is unbelievable.

The patches are sewn, the clothes are washed, and the grooming things are packed. I also packed a rain poncho even though it is about as likely to rain as it is likely to snow.

Now, if I can distract myself enough to not cry when my baby leaves so he won't have to feel bad to leave his wimpy momma.

Is Anyone Up for a Bit of Name That Tune

My mother and I were just reminiscing about songs she used to sing when we were young. She plays the piano now, but used to play the guitar and banjo, too, way back when. She and some of her friends used to get together and sing. She had fun. We all had fun. Singing in the car was one of my favorite things. Anyway, I decided to put together a "play list" for a present for my mother. I have one problem. I don't know the name of one of the songs nor the name of the original artist. I do remember most of the words, even though I haven't heard the song in at least 25 years

Can you name this Song or the original artist??
Had a rusty railroad shack by the river shore
Where the Mississippi River ran by the door

Nothing seemed to work out everything went wrong
So I moved across the river just so I could be alone

Its rained for six whole days and nights, I need you more and more
but the Mississippi River just keeps rising on the shore

That old Mississippi River just gets wider everyday
Its Keeping us apart and keeping you away.
The Lord knows how I hoped and the Lord knows how I prayed
but the Mississippi River just keeps rising every day. Rising.
I realize this isn't top forty, but can anyone help??

Friday, June 09, 2006

Camp Worthy Momma?

Am I a Camp Worthy Momma? My son leaves for Boy Scout camp on Sunday and I am not ready. This is his first week overnight camp. He has attended a couple of overnight camp outs, but they have included us. My daughter went to a day camp in Memphis while staying with my sister-in-law. I didn't have to worry about packing. I knew her needs would be met by her Aunt and cousin even if I forgot something.

I had images of having everything organized and packed well beforehand, but I have failed. I will be making a mad dash into the city to purchase the uniform this afternoon. Then I will have to sew the patches, etc. The lists of what things he needs to take are obscure, at best. I think the only thing on the list was a sleeping bag and the uniform for flag ceremonies. I will probably pack some insect spray, sun screen, and blueberry muffins. I want him to have everything he needs to be comfortable without being weighted down with stuff. There is so much to think about.

Then, the question remains -- Will I be able to watch him leave for a week without crying?

Summer Learning

Official school ended a few weeks ago. Yet, Summer is perfect for learning. The slower pace, fewer organized activities, and the longer days stimulate learning. Children are drawn outdoors and left to their own devices and amazing truths of nature are observed, the laws of physics are tested, muscles are developed, art is created, stories recounted, and mysteries solved. By letting children play and get bored you open the door to creative problem solving and learning.

I've heard, "Mama, I'm bored," at least a hundred times this summer, already. I respond in a similar way each time, "Go outside and play." I know that time spent wandering around on the farm is never wasted. Day-dreaming, scheming, exploring and testing are great activities that are best done when bored. While bored, my children dug a canal and built a dam. They made boats of paper and wood and floated them on the waterway. Experimenting with the water, dirt and miscellaneous pipe, wood, and other collected junk is certainly educational, but it is also fun. Yes, I could go stand out there with a book and direct the activities and bark out why those sticks won't work that way, but all that teaching would ruin it. Instead, my children have spent days experimenting and finally came up with a sturdy dam while I kept my mouth shut. I, as always, keep a watchful eye and ear pealed to the laboratory of the day, but try hard to stay out of it. I did overhear my son say, "How do the beavers do this so well with just dirt and sticks?" I think I overheard them discussing building a lock, next.

On another boring day, my children took a long walk to the spring. They found a fairy village in the moss and spent time "helping" the fairies by building some structure for their town. My sister and I used to pretend fairies in moss, with acorn cups, and rock tables. I told my children the story long ago. My children have now made their own stories and memories. I was told on my last walk to the spring, that I had stepped on a fairy garden. Oops! I have to be more careful.

Last week, my daughter folded a "nest" of paper, filled it with sunflower seeds, and climbed a tree. She placed the "nest" in an enticing place and waited. And waited. And waited.

Other days, I hear hammers banging. Construction has commenced. Or, they just ride their bikes, shoot targets with BB guns or bow, pick flowers, look for frogs or birds. I know that the unstructured learning is just as important as the more structured learning of the school year. I have to be patient with the messes created both inside and out. I have to remember that it is better for them to find out for themselves, rather than for me to tell them. I have to be available to help and rescue when needed but otherwise stay out of the way. I am rewarded with children who entertain themselves.

The children do go to the pool, participate in some organized activities, watch a few movies, and help build fences and other home and farm work, but Summer is all about roaming freely outside. I know roaming freely is not practical for city dweller children, but backyards, city and state parks, and inside the house can lead to similar exploration. Just remember to provide unscheduled time without an agenda. Let the child invent, while you watch.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blogger has been down so long ....

I forgot what I wanted to say. I leave you with these two farm images. Today, the first zinnia fully bloomed. I have been secretly watering these plants. I love to have them on my fence row and in my house and I just couldn't bare to watch them wilt. I am rewarded today with this beautiful orange bloom. Tomorrow, a pink, purple, and yellow will burst open. Today, there is nothing to compete. These will bloom all summer and into the fall if . . . I keep watering them. We are so unusually dry. I wouldn't complain if this were August or the first of September, but this is the first week of June and we should have to guess when we should cut the hay. As it is, there will be no hay. The hay field is dry and the clover is fading.

Yesterday, we shipped our hormone free, anti-biotic free, grass and corn fed calves to Laura's Lean Beef. I am proud to be part of their "family." They are so nice to the people and the animals. The company and Laura embrace sustainability and they don't allow the calves to "stress out" at shipping. If you need another reason to eat Laura's Lean - Laura blogs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Even more Mischief by the Yellow Dog

The Yellow Dog doesn't look like a ferocious beast. Most of the time he can be found lazing around on one of the porches or in the yard (just as pictured). But . . . the dog is full of mischief. When we first got him he chewed shoes. Then, he tore the screens on the dog trot and came and went at will with our possessions. Since then, he has been banished from unsupervised outside play time during the day because he killed a few of my chickens. I honestly think he was just playing with them because he didn't break the skin. They are dead none-the-less and I just can't let him play with any more.

Next, he started chasing the calves at night (when he was let out). It is difficult to keep weight on grass fed beef when they are chased all night long. Now, even in his restrained, supervised existence, he has ripped the drain pipes from underneath the house. Last night when the Princess took a bath, all the bath water ran out onto the ground into a big puddle at the back of the house.

After a bit of exploration , we determined that the toilet drain was not involved. Thank goodness! We were able to wait to make repairs until today. My handy man husband fixed it after he shipped the calves and before he went to his purchasing job. My husband is losing patience with the Yellow Dog. I am too! But you have to admit that if you think about it the right way, having a completely mischievous dog is amusing. I wonder what he will do next.

Picking Green Beans

Yesterday, I stretched the water hoses into the garden. Even with the light rain, I have wilting plants. While I was in the garden, I dug all the potatoes (so the fire ants won't eat them during this dry weather), thinned carrots, and picked more green beans. Green beans are so sneaky. After I feel that I have picked every single bean from a section and move on to the next, I look back and there they are. - bunches and bunches of beans that I overlooked. Green beans like to be picked clean so they will keep producing so I go back and get those missed beans. Later, as I leave the garden, I look and there are still more beans on the vines. How does this happen? I have never thought about being an inattentive worker, but the proof hangs on the vine.

Rattlesnake beans will be next and they are easier to see.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Cleaning Bonus

As I mentioned earlier, I am attempting to organize my books. While doing so, I found a great nature study book that I didn't realize I owned. My husband's 100 year old grandmother was lightening her load and gave us many books. When we got them I didn't have time to go through them properly. Yesterday afternoon I found The Wonders I See by John K. Terres in those books.

The Wonders I See is a wonderful CM type nature study book in that it is divided into months and within each month there are 7 to 10 shorter readings such as "Birds Bathing in Cold Weather," "Unusual Behavior of some Purple Martins," and "A Wasp Lures a Spider to Its Death." This book was originally published in 1948 and republished in 1960. I'm not sure if it is still available, but I am certainly excited that I can share this nature journal with my children.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Night Sounds

Last night, I was awakened not by any of the usual noises - dog barking, cats climbing on the screens, or bumps and thuds - or smells - skunks, but by the quiet of the softest rain. There was no wind, lightening, or thunder. Yet, I woke to hear the gentle rain tapping on the tin roof and on the parched ground. Maybe what woke me was the silent cheering of the trees, grass, and the plants my garden.

We have been so dry and even this rain was not forecast and not anywhere close to enough. I've been using the water hose just to keep the plants alive, yet the water hose is no substitute for the rain. This morning the garden looks so fresh. The beans and peas I planted between the corn look so much better. They might live. This has been a strange gardening year. We had so much rain and cold early that I struggled to find a day to plant. Then, we got so hot and dry that the plants I finally coerced out of the ground nearly burned. Then we had wind, lots of rain, and cool weather which stressed the plants. Finally, we are having unseasonal hot and dry, again.

I am waiting patiently for the first tomato (hopefully next week) which I will eat in my first tomato sandwich of the year. By the end of the summer, I will not want a tomato sandwich because of all the ones before, but now I go out and stare longingly at the tomatoes hanging on the vines.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blueberry Muffins

This morning I made blueberry muffins thanks to a wonderful recently retired man in town. Blueberry muffins and pancakes are two of my children's favorite breakfast foods. We had eaten every blueberry in the freezer and would have to wait for another few weeks for fresh blueberries here, until this wonderful man cleaned out his freezer in preparation for this year's crop. He had offered quart packages to several people at work and they never took them home. He gave me everyone's present -- about two gallons total. So this morning, we had muffins.

Here is the recipe I use. I know I should credit someone with the recipe, but I didn't record where I got it. I have modified it a good bit over the years, so perhaps I should get credit!?
Blueberry Muffins

1 cup Milk
1/4 cup Butter, Unsalted
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
1 tsp Lemon juice
2 lg Eggs
2 cup Flour, White, Unbleached
3/4 cup Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
1 1/3 cup Blueberries

Preheat oven to 400. Line muffin cups. Combine first four ingredients in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts. Cool until mixture is warm to touch. Beat in eggs. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until blended. Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among cups. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

This makes about 12 large muffins. I usually go ahead and double the recipe so there are muffins for snacks and another day's breakfast.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Timer and The Smallest Part

As I have mentioned before, I am not a domestic goddess. I, on occasion, try, but usually fall back into bad habits. I blame my failures on having children late in my adult life. You know, I had already gotten set in my ways without the extra mess. We lived in the city so all my husband's pants and shirts were sent to the laundry. Since I worked outside the home many of my clothes went to the cleaners. I assure you two people who live and work in a city do not make the same quantity or type of mess that four people living and working in the country make.

When we moved back to Mississippi my mother noticed my failures and began giving me self help books in home management. I added to these with my own purchases. I have read them all, but reading and implementing are two different concepts. I hired someone to clean and do laundry, but it hasn't worked because I don't like people in my home, pilfering through my things. I also feel guilty having someone do something I don't want to do.

Since the housekeeper failure, I have been doing better. I don't mind washing the laundry, but I hate to fold. I don't mind loading the dishwasher, but hate unloading. And sweeping just isn't my thing. So, I have begun to set a timer to jump start my least favorite tasks. I can talk myself into five minutes of just about anything. The timer is set along with some snappy music and off I go. It works - even for me!! Amazingly, none of the tasks I dread is anywhere as bad as I make it out to be before I actually begin.

Another help I have begun using again is "the smallest part rule." This came from a book about overcoming procrastination, which my mother loaned me, which I loaned to another procrastinator and never got back. It is probably sitting in her to do pile even after all these years. Anyway, the best thing in the nameless book was to break the task into smaller pieces and start on the smallest segment you think you can manage. Today, I will take a ladder to the living room, in which resides an entire wall of floor to ceiling(17 feet) bookshelves which hold a hodgepodge collection of books that I will attempt to organize and catalog. Looking at this disorganized mess is distracting and overwhelming, but if I make a start, even a small one like taking the ladder, the momentum usually carries me forward into the next smallest part. I relied on "the smallest part rule" in graduate school and again when I was teaching. Now I will use it for home management.

Anyway, with folded clothes, empty dishwasher, and a swept floor I am ready for the day. I will go extinguish fires at work and return home to start on "the next smallest part" by getting the ladder in the house.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Touch of History and a "Mess" of Beans

I am recovering from my bee stings on my face. My left eye is not quite swollen shut, but I don't want anything touching my forehead. So, I pulled out this bonnet that belonged to my Great Grandmother who lived in this house before me. She gave it to my mother after my parents moved back to this town. She couldn't believe mother didn't own a bonnet. My mother is not the bonnet type, so she packed it away. When we moved into this house she gave me the bonnet to complete the circle, so to speak. I'm not bonnet material either, so I packed it away for safe keeping. Today, I unpacked it because I didn't want to wear my very fashionable straw gardening hat. Wow! I loved wearing it and understand why my great grand mother was stunned that my mother planned to garden without one. The huge bib keeps the sun and glare at a minimum and the little flap keeps the insects off the sweat. All this, in a lightweight, barely noticeable package. It didn't even fall off when I leaned over to pick this "mess" of beans.

The older people in the community call any just picked and on the way to the table vegetables a "mess." While growing up here I never thought about it being an odd way to refer to vegetables, even though my mother never said it. Once I left and was misunderstood a few times, I tried to erase "mess" from my vocabulary along with "fixin' to." Later, when researching something else I found that "mess" was from Middle English meaning a serving of food which explains everything. My little niche of Mississippi has an old history. Until recently there were no new immigrants and the swamps and roads kept the area somewhat isolated. The further off the highway you lived the more of the old dialect you kept. Now with television(cable and satellite), better roads, cars, and people marrying outside the community, most of the old ways are gone. But today, I wore a hundred year old bonnet and picked a mess of beans.