Sunday, March 21, 2010

Garden Transformation- Day One

Yesterday was the first day of spring and it brought Day one of the garden transformation. We worked all day! It does not seem like that much got done, but it was a lot of work and we were all sore, tired, and hungry by time we finished for the day. Below on the left is the Montmorency Cherry tree that we planted. It is my favorite dry cherry. I am not sure it will do well in our climate, but I willing to give it a try.

On the right is Kevin removing the English Ivy that had taken over the bed that now holds our cherry tree. It was very hard work and excellent means of "character training". I think he is going to think twice about telling me he finished his math when in fact he hadn't.

Next was the building of the raised beds. We have had them before and removed them because I had decided if I wanted my husband help in the garden I had to do it the way he wanted. We have compromised and I am allowed to have two to do a spring and fall garden. We will still plow up a big area of the yard for the summer garden.

Raised beds are great for many reasons such as being able to concentrate your nutrients in one place and being able to work them earlier and later in the year. The other reason, and the one that won my husband over, is that it is hard to grow root vegetables in East Tennessee clay soil. I have not been able to grow beets well since we got rid of the raised beds. I guess I better produce this year or lose face.

The last picture you see is my new experiment growing potatoes. This is kind of along the lines of "trash can" potatoes. This is what I did: I punctured some holes in the bottom of a bag, threw in a few handfuls of dry leaves, dumped in some dirt to cover, placed 4-5 small seed potatoes, and then covered with more soil. The instructions say to use a kitchen garbage bag, but a friend of mine who is a Master Gardener said she uses feed bags. As the plants grow, I will need to keep adding dirt or hay for the tubers to form. When I am ready to harvest, I will simply cut the bag open and pull out potatoes.

If this works, I will be so excited. Homegrown potatoes are one of the tastiest food on the planet, but the work and the land that goes into producing them will keep most people from growing them.

All in all, it was a great day in the sun and we got a great start to the transformation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: St. Patrick's Day 2010

The preparations are started at 9:30

6:00- Everything is ready. The celebration begins.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Garden Transformation Begins

My garden and yard is about to have a major rennovation. For the past several years, we have been considering moving so we have not done anything to improve our garden like I would have liked. Also, for several years now I have not felt well because of fibromyalgia, but since my hysterectomy last fall, I feel remarkably better. Not that it has cured all my ailments, but it has given me more energy.

The other thing that has got me moving forward with my plan is my eleven year old daughter. She wants all of these things too and is willing to help. At least she says so now. We will see come the middle of summer and the garden needs weeded.

Below are pictures of my vegetable garden last summer. It was O.K., but the plans in my head are so much more. I have plans for all kinds of fruit trees, nut trees, and berry bushes. I love the idea of self-sustainability. I would love to produce as much of our food as I can. We'll see what happens.

Later this week I will post some "before" pictures of the muddy mess that is out there right now and I will keep you posted as it progresses.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Last Saint Patrick's Day was about as delightful a day as one could wish for. It was unusually warm and the corned beef was perfect. As I started to plan our annual family celebration, it occurred to me that maybe not everyone actually knows how to prepare a traditional corned beef and cabbage meal. So I thought I would share how we do ours.

Only three items needed: corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Earth Fare has a coupon this week for a FREE bag of organic potatoes and a coupon for $1.00 off corned beef. I will check the price of the corned beef and if it is not too high, I will get it there. But, if the price will cause my husband to hyperventilate, I will wait until next week and get it at Krogers. They always have them on sale the week of Saint Patrick's Day.
The morning of SPD, put your corned beef and as many pieces of cut up cabbage that you can fit in your crock pot on the low setting. I usually don't mess with the season package that comes with the corned beef because the meat and the cabbage will have plenty of flavor without pepper corns in my cabbage.

About 45 mins- 1 hour before you are ready to eat, remove the beef and place in a roasting pan, slather with some plain mustard and brown sugar, cover with foil and put in oven at 300 degrees for about 30 mins.

Meanwhile, dip some of the juice out of the crock pot and put in a pan with your peeled, cubed potatoes. Add extra water if needed and boil until potatoes are fork tender, drain. The wholesome goodness in the crock pot is truly the key to yummy potatoes.

Serve with butter for the potatoes and sometimes we like ketchup on the cabbage. Yum!

Of course every Saint Patrick's Day celebration requires Celtic music and dance. Last year the kids invented some instruments to accompany the music.

Erin Go Braugh!

Wordless Wednesday: Orange Crush

Kids will be kids! I told them to get a box of oranges out of the trunk and the next time I cam home, this is what I saw as I pulled in the driveway. Apparently there were a couple "bad" oranges that needed to be repurposed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

My eleven year old daughter spends literally hours pouring over the offerings in the Guerney's Seed Catalog instead of hours looking at Shaun Cassidy in Teen Beat magazine like her mother did at her age.

She has picked out several different varieties of roses "in case I wanted to get her something for Easter."

She has no idea how hard it is to grow roses.... yet!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up

Whew! What a week! It was extraordinaryily busy, but mostly fun. Monday started with our regular rountine. We had classes at our local co-op and then Gymnastics. Usually it is dinner and then swimming, but not this week. We had our final practice for the Energy Bowl at the Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge the next morning.

Tuesday we woke up to blowing snow and sleet but headed out for our 40 minute drive to compete against other sixth grade teams from around the area on the topic of physical science and energy. Our kids did fabulous! We earned second place and we even had 2 members who are 5th graders.
After a trip to the museum gift shop to spend our prize money we went to lunch, Earth Fare and then home to piano and gymnastics before the Pinewood Derby that evening. Unfortunately, we did not have quite as a spectacular showing there. Kevin's car actually was no where near done, but he decided to nail on his wheels and go for the fun of it. It wasn't so much fun when he came in last.

Wednesday was about the most "normal" school day we had all week even though it ended at around 12:30. Glen came and picked me up at 12:45 for an appointment with an allergist. I knew they were going to test me, so I wanted him there. The kids went next door and worked on their assignments while I got 130 pricks in my back. It really was not that bad and the good news is that I do not have any allergies. But the wonderful, kind, doctor agreed with me (in front of my husband) that I probably had some sensitivities to preservatives, additives, etc and that white flour probably did make me sick and explained to him why.

Thursday was our AMSE science class. An instructor from the American Museum of Science and Energy comes to Maryville once a month and has a class for the kids. This class was on geology. Colleen had a rock collection at four. She loved this class. Actually she loves all of them.

Friday brought yet another field trip. The Sam Houston Schoolhouse was having Civil War
reenactments and exhibits for homeschoolers in preparation for their reenactments this weekend. We went with some friends and had a great time in the cool sunshine. The kids helped the re-enactors unload a truck full of wood before getting chased out of the flower bed by the school marm. In their defense, we had no idea it was a flower bed either. All in all, it was great fun.

But are we done yet? No. We are on our way to a friend's house for a mother and daughter homemade pizza and "Little Women" party.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Day of Why's

Today was a a day full of "why we homeschool" conversations. It started this morning as my daughter was getting ready to go to Oak Ridge, TN and compete in the Energy Bowl at the Museum of Science and Energy with her twin brother and 3 other 6th graders from our Blount County Co-op. They are actually 5th grade, but they needed another student to compete and agreed to let a couple 5th graders on their team.

As she was getting dressed she asked, "Do people think homeschoolers are weird?" When I asked her why she was asking that question she said that last week while we were at a field trip at our new performing arts center, there were some public school girls making fun of her and her friends because they were homeschooled. I told her that some people may think we are different, but that is one reason we homeschool.. to be different from girls that behave that way. I also told her that if she was in school , those girls would be making fun of her for something else most likely.

So off to Oak Ridge we go in the snow and sleet. The kids were all nervous but they did great and came in second overall. We were very proud of them for that accomplishment, but quite dismayed that they were beat by a team who apparently had the questions to study ahead of time. I know without explanation, I might be labeled an "overprotective, controlling, homeschool mom". So, here it is:

The most obvious question, among many, went something like this. "Blah, blah, blah... all of the following except". The other team's captain buzzed in at that point and answered "C" which was the correct answer. How could he have known that "C" was the answer if he had never heard the answers to choose from?

I was a bit perplexed as was one of the other moms who asked what was going on and the response given her was "This happens every year with this team". But, they can't prove anything so they don't want to accuse them of cheating.

Needless to say, my children, the keepers of the fairness torch, were outraged. I tried to explain that some things in life are not fair and when that happens we just need to accept it as graciously as we can and try to glorify God with our behavior.

This led to the next "why" discussion. While I was trying to talk them down we talked about how we do not educate to a test. We do not have packets with test questions, we have books that we read. In the past month we have all learned so much about energy and physics that we did not know. We, most certainly, are the winners when we look at it in this context.

The last "why" of the day came when we pulled into the driveway. A little girl who is I think about 11-12 was on the street, on her bicycle in the snow, chasing after her sister who is 13 who was running away after a bad day in school. These are some really sweet girls who are home by themselves in the afternoon with their 9 year old brother until their mother gets home from work.

We parked her bike and loaded in the car and went and found her sister. She was talking to her mother the whole time on the phone and all I could think is "Thank you Lord that you have blessed me with the luxury of being with my children." I knew that these girls would be ok, but my heart was aching for their mother who was at work and unable to do anything. I know that homeschooling requires a sacrifice of time and money, but it does not mean that we love our children more.

When we got them home, their nine year old brother was in the garage in his socks and a t-shirt just sobbing. Yeah, I would say I that I have the "luxury" of being with my kids and homeschooling them.

I guess there is yet one last "why". It was what my daughter did when we got home for the evening. She had taken her prize money for being on the second place team to the museum gift shop, bought some kits and came home and made a robot and started some crystals growing. She gets to love what she loves and my little girl loves, among other things, science.