Snow. Snow. Snow.

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Monday morning – 6:30am. Shovelled enough to get truck turned around so Graeme could take it to work. Kids and I cancelled plans for the day and hunkered down at home. Electricity was out from about 7am to 12pm.

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I think we set up the trampoline a bit prematurely. By Friday (above) we were cleaning excessive weights of snow off of it for the fourth time in one week!

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Hmmmm…. will we make it out the driveway to the music festival?

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Yep. Because my dad is driving.

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No amount of pleading from the back seat could change his mind.

And do you know what? The festival was great. Now that we survived the trip – both ways – I can say it worked out for the best. The adjudicator was fantastic, and it was a nice conclusive ending to all the work (and struggles and issues) that was involved leading up to it. It will leave everyone with a better idea of whether or not they want to do it again next year.

Back at home we all had fun playing and exploring in the deep snow (which by now was measuring, on average, 28″ deep)!

There was going to be more to this post, but all the photos aren’t uploaded yet. So I’m going to bed.

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Streamlining, Simplifying, Slashing, Slowing

It’s so easy to get too busy, to get spread too thin. It’s not healthy.  It brings no glory to God. It bears little fruit.  Slowly, year-by-year, month-by-month, we are learning this lesson and remembering it.  There are so many things that look alluring, that look good, that we are tempted to get involved in.  But I’m recognizing more and more, and earlier in the thought process, which of these things are time-suckers with little fruit to bear, and which ones are worthy investments of time, energy, and resources.  I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the stuff we can fill our schedules with is pointless, fruitless, busy-work with little or no fruit to show for in the end.  This is not how I want to spend my time.  This is not how I want my husband nor our children to spend their time.  So over this winter and “spring” we continue to consider “how should we fill our time?” and “what are our priorities?”.   I’ve spent far to much of my life bouncing from one idea to the next; flitting here, flitting there – settling on one thing long enough to taste it, before hopping along to sample the next!  And although I feel like I am slowly changing my habits, it’s something that I must be vigilantly guarding against.  For a few unthoughtful moments plunges us into two weeks of over-the-top busyness.  Everyone pays.

Being purposeful about this sometimes means we don’t see friends as often as we might like to.  It means we don’t sign up for some things that might actually be fun.  It means we drive less, spend less on gas, stay home more, and focus on the many home-projects we’ve got going (or want to get going).  Even these (consider my long list from the last post) must be carefully considered and weighed in the balance.  We can’t do it all.  What is the priority?  Where do we begin?  Do we begin a little bit of every project all at once and hope for the best? Let’s hope not!

Consider food.  With every large order I like to consider which added items I can buy in bulk next time.  Every food item I get in bulk cuts out one part of the grocery store I have to visit.  Building top bar hives, expanding our bees may not sound like a step toward simplification.  But once our bees are producing enough honey it is another shelf in the grocery store I can skip.  To me, this is simplification.  I hate shopping.  I can skip the eggs.  Soon the milk. Chickens.  And if we can’t grow or raise it ourselves, supporting a friend or local farmer who can is the next best thing!  Besides, all of these “preparing the field” projects are work and life and fruit of the hands.  It’s not just another form of entertainment packaged as “educational”.

Consider toys.  Another form of entertainment.  Several weeks ago I was tired of the impact they were having on the household and I packed them all up.  Alright, maybe a few got left out.  The Lego is still accesible.  There are about two stuffed toys and a few plastic animals floating around.  But pretty much everything went into boxes and bags.  And do you know what?  Everyone is happier, busier doing crafty things, inventing, building, going outside.  I thought there might be a transition period, but I think it was almost a relief.  Phew.  Now we don’t have to waste inordinate amounts of our day playing with, protecting, fighting over our toys!  What are we going to do with the toys?  I’m not sure yet.  We were dealing with constant messes (which, inevitably, Mariet cleaned up before I had a chance to make sure kids did), which was the main motivation for packing things up.  I think we might do a sorting, get rid of a bunch of stuff, and keep a few things in organized bins that can be taken out – one bin at a time – to be played with.  But for now, and maybe for the summer, this is a good arrangement.  We’ve been doing sewing lessons instead, we set up the trampoline (a little premature, the snow-load is taxing it), and so much  more.

Consider mealtime and who eats what.  This is an area that has been improving quite dramatically lately.  For a long time I’ve been more consistent in some mealtime rules about tasting things, “you don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it”, no substitutes, etc.  But more unexpected and dramatic changes have taken place more recently.  Trust me, some of the pickier eaters still have lots of room for improvement, but things have been hopeful.  This is no doing of my own.  All I will say is “fasting and prayer”.  What a huge blessing and encouragement!

Consider really enjoying one another.  I have a real problem with being busy.  I get so focused on my agenda (or even lame things…. like blogging) that I don’t really pay attention to someone who is talking to me, I don’t slow down and look in the eye of the little person who is bearing their heart or seeking my comfort, I don’t stop and laugh at the joke, the funny face, the delightful discovery.  And…. having to wind this up in a hurry…. this brings me to mentioning how unloving I am.  It really struck me on Saturday, actually, while I was at the food buying club dividing.  How impatient I am with people who I view as “slow”.  How irritated I become when I feel someone is working inefficiently, when I know I could do it better myself.  How low my threshold is for people who don’t seem to be able to solve problems independently.  How proud and arrogant I am!  Oh, God, help me!  Conform me to Christ’s image!  I was talking to my family about this and we came up with the thought of how to God – on the extreme high end of the scale of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding – the rest of  us are all on the low end of the scale!  My “intelligence” compared to God’s puts me right in the same group as the lowest human intellect on earth!  There’s a thought to ponder!  So as I consider my lack of charity, and meditate on God’s words about charity, I am pricked again and again and again thinking of interactions I’ve had, in ways that I daily respond to my children, my husband, friends, strangers. In the thoughts that pass through my heart.  I want to be simple.  I complicate things.

Must go.  A little person needs me now!

 

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The Days are Just Packed

I just saw that title on a Calvin and Hobbes book. Of course, Calvin’s packed days (sitting in a tree all day waiting for Susie to happen along so that he can pelt her with water balloons) are not quite the same as our packed days!

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A boreal owl seen on our road yesterday. It was SO cute.

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Katie getting towed by Noah on the tricycle!

So what are the days packed with?  Nothing out of the ordinary, really.  Piano, violin, and poetry practice has been ramping up toward festival time.  Ben played his piano entry yesterday.  I was unable to attend, but got to enjoy the video that Graeme took.  The rest of the entries run from Thursday evening to Saturday morning.  Graeme took the four boys for the last down hill ski of the season today.  They all came home tired and happy.

Danica and I spent the day putting away over $2000 worth of food.  Yesterday was The Big Order day from the local food buying club.  It was my group’s turn to help with the big divide – something like over $30,000 worth of food.  It was the first time I was involved in the big divide (at each order our smaller groups divide among ourselves).  I left home at 6am and wasn’t back until almost 6pm.  It was an amazing operation.  They certainly have it down to a science.  This particular club is the second oldest buying club in Ontario, and it is the largest.  Anyway, Danica and I had to figure out where to stash all that food!  Quite an impressive amount went under the pool table.  And a good reorganization of the pantry took care of most of the rest of it. (This is the job Katie helped with! 🙂 It’s always so satisfying to get that order, and each time I’m better at remembering the things I wanted to order, estimating how much of it we’ll use, anticipating the increases based on family growth, etc.  I just like having all that food on hand.  You never know!

Although the snow just keeps coming we are dreaming spring.  For a while a lot of my time was being taken up on tracking down the goats that I want.  Unfortunately for me, the breed I’ve settled on is harder to come by than I expected.  The good side of that (at least as I anticipate it) the goat kids will be very marketable and rare in this area.  There have been others looking for them on Kijiji!  For a few days I was literally dreaming about goats all night long!   That’s sort of subsided a bit as I’m in waiting mode – waiting to hear what kids are born to the breeders I’ve been corresponding with; deciding if/where I will drive to to pick them up; planning fencing and shelter.  That is the next big job.  Another thing to research: how to set up secure goat fencing on a steep, rocky hillside!  I think I’ve got my plan – at least the rough version.  Meanwhile, I have the opportunity (should I decide upon it) to rent (for next to nothing) a producing goat and her kid (for company) for the summer.  Hmmm…. decisions, decisions.  I need to think on that one a little longer.

Other projects in the line-up include:
(any bets as to whether or not all of these projects get done?) 🙂

    • small timber frame storage shed
    • digging out hole in hillside for root cellar
    • pouring concrete root cellar
    • lots, lots, lots of raised garden beds using a variety of sources – driftwood logs, hypertufa containers, found objects, stone, palettes
    • cold frames
    • compost bins
    • learning how to build and building dry stacked retaining wall on entire hillside including in front of said root cellar (which will have a round “hobbit” door); thinking of talking to some experienced dry-stackers and seeing if we could turn this into a workshop on our property – want to sign up?
    • still don’t have the window and chicken door in coop; poor birds; must accomplish this soon!
    • construct outdoor chicken enclosure near current coop
    • meat birds
    • more laying hens
    • guinea fowl (should be ready mid-May); the tick removal brigade
    • top bar hives; expanding the bee operation
    • giant tree/shrub order (should be arriving early May); it seemed like a long way off when we ordered and now it’s almost here – a little hard to believe with the very wintery conditions we are still having!  This will include apple, cherry, plum, raspberry, saskatoon…. to name a few.  We are SO excited!
    • digging up and planting sugar maples; planting acorns (Zach wants to plant for edibility and found out a neighbour has a contact for someone who has selected for this.)
    • set up a spot for a broody hen and hopefully hatch out some chicks
    • soak, buck, membrane, and tan my deer hides; I’ve been watching the weather for weeks waiting for the first warm stretch to do this in
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The hides are in that bag! I get a little nervous on the warmish days and it’s baking in the sun. But I stuck my nose in there the other day and it smells “fine”.

  • feed my bees!! I’m getting very anxious for a warm day.  I held my ear up to the hive a few days ago and heard a couple of buzzes.  It could have been the last bee dying.
  • five more weeks (once a week) of wrestling; a friend is the coach at the university and was willing to run a session for some of us in the homeschool group to give wrestling a try.  So far the kids are loving it.
  • collecting clay from local sources to play around with – maybe some pinch pots, slab work, and fire it in a pit-fire or something similar; some great ideas in Make it Wild!
  • can’t forget foraging!  Should soon be keeping an eye out for fiddleheads – my first foraging goal of spring.

Oh, and here’s the real challenge!  As Proverbs 3:9 -10 presses upon our hearts we’ve been challenged to become much better stewards of the resources we have, to be creative, inventive, and….. patient. Well, that is, at least, one of the challenges.  I feel like there are so many these days!  Good, growth stimulating challenges!  And as I look around me day-by-day at these children and my husband – these wonderful people I get to live with and grow with and eat with and play with and laugh with and cry with and pray with – I am filled to overflowing.

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Greenhouse Guy

March 21st

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Zach has been working/apprenticing at a local greenhouse two days a week.  Here he is with some of the market vegetables that are being grown hydroponically.

This has been a great opportunity for him to exercise his green thumb…. literally. His hands are often very green when we pick him up.  After picking hundreds of tomato suckers off he’s got more than just a green thumb!

On top of picking suckers, pollinating flowers, hauling soil, scrubbing gutters, planting seeds, and watering, he’s been able to start all of his own seedlings (with his own heritage seeds) in this wonderfully controlled environment, which has been very exciting too.  The owner seems to enjoy and welcome him there at least as much as Zach enjoys going.  They’ve both got lots of ideas and plans that they are always bouncing off of each other.  This has developed into at least one idea that they are going to put into action fairly soon – experimenting with growing heritage watermelons hydroponically for market.

We’ve also been offered the use of a quarter acre of his land to grow a garden on, which we are going to take advantage of.  It will be a great location to plant some corn, potatoes, and a few other things that won’t do so well in shale!  Or, you know, just take up too much space to try to grow in raised beds at this point in our gardening development!

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Theme

The WordPress theme that I used for ages was discontinued and that left me with the one I was using most recently. I decided to find a new one that I liked better. This is not it. But I’m tired of messing with it. And just tired. So this is it for now.

Happy Easter, everyone!

HE IS RISEN!!

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Hymns for a Kid’s Heart

While I’m printing out some more copies of the “Passion Hymns for a Kid’s Heart” for our song books, I thought of sharing the link. You can download all the sheet music and audio tracks (free!) for the “Passion Hymns” and other titles.

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A Not So Magnificent Bird

We were given this rooster, quite unexpectedly, a few weeks back. He dulls in comparison to the previous bird post. Although he’s friendly, he dulls in comparison to our last rooster too. The last guy had a lot more “personality” if a rooster can have personality.

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Another Owl

We went for a lovely ski last Sunday and on the drive home we saw this great gray. We’ve been seeing so many of them, but this was the best yet. He just sat in the tree as I approached through the knee-deep snow. I photographed him every few steps anticipating it would fly at any moment. I got right to the base of the tree and he seemed pretty disinterested in me. Zach decided to get out of the truck and join me. The owl obliged. I was hoping to get some flight shots, but when he finally flew he went in the opposite direction I was expecting so they aren’t that great. Anyway….. hope you enjoy the photos. We sure enjoyed standing that close to this magnificent bird while having him stare, blink, and turn away impassively.

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Blink!

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Everyone else watching from the truck.

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Sliding

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This is a serious hill. I invited two other families to join us there. After the first few kids came careening down I was pretty sure I made a terrible mistake. The last time we were at this hill Zach and Gabe were much younger and only ventured about a third of the way up. My sister and friends accompanied us and I knew they would not run into one of my kids. Anyway, it all turned out well. I think they scared themselves a little, too, and moderated their speed as much as possible. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and my spare was dead too. I would have liked to get action shots of each child…. and each mom! We’ll have to do it again.

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This is a dress my mom sewed for me when I was little. Danica added her “birthday skirt” to the ensemble.

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Who can spot a young boy who likes to swoop into every photograph?

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Winter fun at friends’.

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Relaxing with big bro. in the rocking chair.

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