Category Archives: Seasons

Evening Cicada Transformation

The sound of Cicadas: One reason I love living in the Midwest.

I recall traveling to several other States during the Summer, and really missing their loud humming sound at sunset. They’re literally all around here, all over our property. We keep finding their emptied brown shells, but never came across a Cicada in the process of transformation until this evening. They fascinate me. Unlike Butterflies, the don’t even have to have a cocoon, and simply transform within their own skin. They emerge larger and much more beautiful than before (well, I think they’re beautiful, anyway). There is a lot of symbology behind them. They’re garden good-guys, and target feeding on damaged leaves. I just plain love them, and consider their loud Summer hum the sound of home sweet home.

Below are the night time pictures I caught this evening on the edge of our rabbit run. I felt like a voyeur as I watched such a profound change happening. His pants are down! The Cicada slid out much faster than I expected. When I ran inside to grab the camera, he was barely out of his skin. When I ran back outside, he was almost finished.

Wowie!

 

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The Boys’ Bunny Business

Sky Bear & Prasad playing "veterinarian" together

Heat, heat, heat! This has been the hottest Kansas Summer of my lifetime. It’s been over 100 degrees on so many days this Summer, so they have to check on the bunnies often. They cool down by lying against large, frozen water bottles, and staying in the shade.

little rabbit run in process

Prasad's big boy, Forest (Flemish Giant)

It’s been a struggle finding time to bear the extremely hot temps. I finally got the bunny run framed, and most of the wire on. The floor is lined with chicken wire to prevent burrowing by both bunnies and predators. The wall between the two bunnies is heavy rabbit wire (the kids keep saying they’ll be able to give each other kisses through it). The roof will be the final touch, but due to the heat we’re not planning to have it done right away. Until that’s completed, the bunnies will use the run by day, and be locked up at night. It won’t actually be a roof, but a wood framed wire lid that folds open so we can stand up inside and clean easily. Prasad and Sky Bear are responsible for 100% of the cleaning, care and feeding, and they’ve both been doing a great job.

Both bunnies get 2x a day of free hopping time all over the yard (15-20 minutes at a time). What I love most about them is the fact that they follow me everywhere. They like to keep track of humans, and stay by our feet. Sometimes I forget Forest is hopping around, and I’m suddenly started by something against my leg. Very sweet animals who happen to produce the world’s greatest fertilizer pellets!

Sky Bear holding his 3 month old baby, Meadow

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Filed under Chicken & Rabbit Gardening, Do-It-Yourself, Kids, Kids Pictures, Rabbits, River Living, Seasons

Urban Farm & Garden Update: Late Spring 2011

Potato barrels

Our potatoes are taking off like crazy. We have two experimental barrels this year. Prasad & Sky chose to grow some in their own little garden plots, and those are doing great, too. We’ll get to experience ground versus barrel potatoes, and decide what to repeat for next year. When the plants are towering above the barrels like this, it’s time to add more soil, burying almost half the existing plants. We’ll wait for blossoms to appear, and do a partial harvest of baby potatoes.

Green Beans & Snap Peas

Remember when we first planted these? You can see them here in an older post. The green beans and snap peas have entwined, creating large, happy vines. The peas are already flowering.

Snow Peas

Our snow peas were started much later than the snap peas, which is why they’re so small. We started them directly in the ground with seed from a generous neighbor friend, Kristen. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find snow peas this year, and were thrilled when she contacted me. Thanks so much, Kristen! They took off pretty fast, but we noticed something started nibbling on them. They must be pretty tasty leaves, because nothing else in the garden was being nibbled. Daniel put a little rabbit wire fence around them, and they’ve been doing much better ever since. These are my favorite peas for salads, so we’re hoping they continue to do well.

Tomatoes

The tomatoes have gone insane! If you look back at our Early Spring post you can see how much they’ve grown. We’ve had a lot of rain, followed by sun and heat so they’re very happy so far. We’ve had no problems with staking, but when they’re taller we plan to add wood poles for extra support. Our tomatillo plants don’t have any cages, just poles, and they’re doing great, so far. They’ve got blooms, and so do all our peppers!

Zucchini

We thought this little guy was history a few weeks ago. It was tiny when we planted it on a small hill, and it got trampled a few times before the fence was up. I think it was down to two small, very sad look leaves. Now it’s thriving and blooming. I am a zucchini fanatic, so cannot wait!

Our front yard was tilled, and we planted a large strawberry patch, watermelon, and Russian Giant sunflowers. All three are taking off like crazy. Despite living in the Sunflower State, we’ve never been able to grow Sunflowers from seed. Our front yard plants are taking off, and we’ll have to post pics soon!

Summer heat is coming. We’ve had several humid days in the 90’s. The challenge in our climate comes during the intense heat & drought periods of Summer. We’re hoping the loamy soil helps significantly, and that we don’t have to irrigate excessively. It’s something we have to pay close attention to, or we could lose all our yummy crops. If all goes well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough food to feed several families!

Complete List of what we’re growing this year:

Potatoes (barrel & ground), 14 Tomatoes, 9 multi-colored Cherry tomatoes, 2 types of peas (snow & snap), Green Beans, 2 Blueberry bushes, 50 Strawberry plants, 1 Zucchini, 2 Cucumber, 1 Bush Cucumber, 4 Jalapeno peppers, 6 mixed pepper plants (red, yellow & green), Garlic, Onion, 9 Eggplant, 8 Tomatillos, Kale, Broccoli, Sunflower, Watermelon, 2 Peach trees, 1 self-pollinating Apple tree, Cilantro

Plus, don’t forget we have a duck & 3 hens laying eggs every day. By August we’ll have 6 more starting to lay. It’s a wonderful feeling when your food comes from right outside your back door.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Blueberries, Chickens, Do-It-Yourself, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Fruit Trees, In Season, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Seasons, Shashwat, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Weather

Sandwich-Summer Simplicity

One of the most monotonous things about Summers with four kids is meal prep. Day in and out Daniel and I are preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it always starts feeling like I’m on a gerbil wheel! Every time we think we can take a breather and sit down, it’s time to prepare yet another meal. I’m not having it this Summer. There are far too many more interesting things to focus on and spend our time doing, so we’ve come up with a simple solution. We’re calling it a serve yourself Sandwich Summer.

Instead of “What’s for lunch/dinner, Mom?” They’ll say, “What kind of sandwich(es) will I create for myself today?” I’ve decided, for the sake of other more interesting and fun activities, as well as sanity, time & energy conservation, we’re going the easy route for lunches, and most dinners (4 nights/week). Three days a week (F, Su, and one weekday evening) we’ll prepare a hot meal for dinner. But ALL lunches and other evenings we’ll have our pick of a smorgasbord of choices for making our own sandwiches.

Sandwiches require little prep, no heating, conserve energy/dollars and won’t heat up the house by cooking. My maternal grandmother used to prepare sandwiches for dinner on evenings the temps were too high to turn on the stove. So, I’m just expanding on an old family tradition.

What’s for lunch and dinner? For both meals, our kids will choose from a rich variety of organic vegetables, cheeses, feta, spicy or regular mustard, mayo, ketchup, butter, lettuces, spinach, sprouts, pickles, vinegar & oil, home made breads, bagels, tortillas, cashew, peanut, and almond butter, cream cheese, honey, crushed red pepper, black pepper, egg salad, deli turkey (for Sky & Sorin), tofu, spicy tempeh, veggie pepperoni, and more. Side items include fruit, carrots, granola, yogurt, salsa and chips. I’m excited about how liberating this will be on my end, as a mother. Even Amelie and Liam will take part in Sandwich Summer, but of course we’ll do the prep. Maybe his brothers will end up preparing for him… that would be perfect. Liam doesn’t usually enjoy sandwiches, but we’re spicing up the choices a lot to get him interested… he loves spicy food. With so much variety, there just has to be a sandwich for everyone.

Here’s to a very simple Summer!

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Order & Balance, Organic Food, Seasons, Simplicity, Thoughts & Insights, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening

Switching to Mother Earth Time

Due to the upcoming Kansas Summer temps, we’ve been re-thinking our usual daily routine and schedule. We get up, stay indoors all morning sipping tea and doing chores, so by the time we’re outside around 11:00am-12:00pm we’re broiling on days like today. We usually work all afternoon in the gardens, building the fort and such during the most warm time of day. This is because we’re on “world time” which aligns with school and typical work schedules, instead of natural earth cycles. We’ve been programmed that way. It has to change, or we’ll all suffer from heat exhaustion, and we’ll miss out on prime opportunities to be outdoors like early mornings and evenings.

I don’t wear a watch, and haven’t for over twelve years. I can’t stand numbers, or feeling enslaved to a clock. Despite that, I’ve noticed what a hold “world time” has on my psyche. I’ve been reflecting on this for a while now, and we’re trying to implement some changes this weekend.

Today, we drew up a more “real time” schedule that takes the earth’s seasons, weather, and cycles into consideration. Instead of lollygagging around indoors during the cooler morning hours, we’ll be having our usual adult time with morning tea outdoors, puttering around outside instead of seated indoors. At that time the kids will have their usual morning fruit and quiet time, reading or drawing individually. After they finally get breakfast, which will come later than usual, and be more of a brunch, they’ll be outdoors with us until the heat becomes unbearable. At that point, it’s siesta time. We retreat indoors from about noon to 5:00pm, and take care of indoor household duties at that time. It’s a flip from what we’re accustomed to, but will give us time outside from about 5:30-9:30pm. Fortunately, more than half of our lot is shaded and quite bearable during morning and evening hours. This schedule is typical for farmers. It’s a huge adjustment for a typical, urban American because it feels as if we’re being “unproductive” in the afternoons. It’s mostly about productivity and getting ahead here, isn’t it? Not in this family (unless we’re referring to producing more happiness, peace and freedom). We’re looking forward to following this earth based schedule year-round.

When Fall arrives, we’ll be outdoors in the afternoons, no doubt. The morning and evening hours will be more chilly, plus the days will be shorter. The cycle of the seasons (and the weather) will dictate our schedule. Our animals naturally know how to listen to its rhythms. for us, it’s an adjustment, but I’m fairly certain it will feel more natural and harmonious for both mind & body. It’s a more free-flowing, intuitive, common-sense way to live.

Posted by: Jill

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Summer Break and Making Memories

Today marks the official start of Summer vacation for our kids. At 3:00pm we’ll have our hands full as parents, but I am looking forward to the more laid back and easygoing days of Summer. After moving here last July, Summer took on a whole new meaning with new dimensions. I’m quite certain this will be a Summer to remember.

We have a plaque in our bathroom that reads: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Summer gives families the perfect time to experience more of those extraordinary moments together. It doesn’t matter which activities we choose, or whether we have activities at all… it’s about what helps us become more present in the moment, and whether or not we’re receptive to it. When we’re fully and completely present in any one moment, that is when life becomes breathtaking. Our consciousness rises to a heightened state of awareness. Just think of all the times you were overwhelmed with joy and feeling deeply connected to someone– no doubt, you were completely immersed in the “now.” It can last a few seconds, but you carry it in your heart for a lifetime.

Here is our list of 15 things you can do to help create new Summer memories. They’re effortless, as all things of Summer should be, and the only requirement is that you participate with a joyful, childlike heart:

1) COLLECT NATURE– Have your kids gather various rocks, leaves and pressed flowers to make their own collection. Tape the leaves and flowers into a journal, and label them.

2) CLIMB A TREE– This is something I loved doing as a child, and the views from a tree are amazing. Loosen up, and let your kids climb, but be sure to try it yourself, too!

3) CATCH FIREFLIES– Another childhood favorite activity. Get an old jar with holes in the lid, and catch away. It’s pure magic for kids. Be sure to set them free when you’re done.

4) STARGAZING– On a clear night, get a soft blanket and lie down with your child(ren). The stars are amazing, but the closeness you’ll feel to your child will be with them for a lifetime. Our kids especially love this.

5) BACKYARD CAMPING– Set up a tent and spend a night sleeping together. Awaken with the sun to the sound of your local birds. Remember to spend some time barefoot on your grass. There’s nothing like that squishy, cool sensation between your toes on the morning dew.

6) CAMPFIRE– Instead of just burning leaves, have a camp fire and roast marshmallows, make s’mores and tell ghost stories. We did this last Summer, and our kids are still talking about it.

7) PLAY IN THE DIRT– Have a designated place where you and the kids can dig in the dirt. Not for anything practical, but just to dig and get dirty.  Mud pies are a blast, and your kids will love you forever for doing this!

8 ) GROW AN EDIBLE GARDEN– Just a small plot for your kids to grow their own food with your assistance can be rewarding, nutritious, and the time spent caring for it is well spent together. If you live in an apartment, a flower pot will do.

9) WATER PLAY– This is a no-brainer, especially in very hot climates. Time dancing in the rain, small pools, water guns, sprinklers & hoses are a necessity for Summer fun. If you live near lakes and rivers, take time to sit beside them and soak your feet together.

10) BUILD SOMETHING– It can be a tree house, play house or temporary fort. Give your kids branches, scrap wood, tarps, old sheets and cardboard, and see what they come up with. However elaborate or simple, you’ll have a blast.

11) ENJOY DANDELION– Sit in your yard or meadow and blow seed together. Place yellow blossoms at your chin to “see if you like butter.” Remember that from childhood? If you have a yellow reflection on your chin you love butter, of course! These flowers are simple fun.

12) CREATE A TIME CAPSULE– Use a box (wood or metal) and gather items that you or future owners could uncover in years to come. Kids have a lot of fun with this, writing letters and including trinkets and objects.

13) BIRDWATCHING– Buy your kids their own binoculars, find a spot near the trees or bird feeders and enjoy the scenery. Have your kids help paint bird feeders, fill them, and also watch them from indoors. Kids also love to have bird identification books, and keep journals about the birds they see each day.

14) SWING– Summer isn’t complete without a porch or tree swing. If you don’t have a porch, you can put a glider on your balcony, patio or under a tree. Sitting together, rocking and talking is a special activity.

15) LEMONADE & SUN TEA– Even more than swings, both lemonade and sun tea are musts for Summer. Make fresh lemonade out of lemons and show your kids how it’s done. Have them help with the sun tea process, too, and offer different varieties of teas (kids love a few fruity bags thrown in). Have a tea or lemonade stand at the end of your driveway. When I was a child, we offered cookies.

There are a zillion ways to enjoy the Summer and create some of your own breathtaking moments. This is a very short list. Don’t forget home made go-carts, catching toads & frogs, kite flying, and outdoor games like croquet and horse shoes. Most importantly, remember that the less time people spend on video games, television and computers, the more likely they are to be in the moment, connect to one another, and have a Summer they’ll never forget. This is the most relaxed time of year, so take a deep breath and open up to the possibilities. As a family, we’re hoping to absorb more fully the timeless moments, re-living a little of our own childhood in the process.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Kids, Parenting, Seasons, Simplicity, Thoughts & Insights, Urban Farmsteading

End of the Month Family Update

This is just a ‘check-in’ post in so that people know we didn’t fall off the face of the earth. There is always a lot going on here, but lately it has been way over the top and almost impossible to sit down and write for any length of time. I’ve reached a state where I’m simply cutting out excess just to get a handle on things. It feels like I was holding the reigns to our cart and buggy, and the horses went wild and I just let go. Anyway, instead of rambling, it’s easier to update in bullets.

-The ducks are getting huge. The indoor ducks, that is.  Our outdoor ducks, Mortimer and Phoebe, have grown a lot, too. Mortimer has changed colors and is looking gorgeous. They are both starting to behave more like foragers, and are even competing with the hens for table scraps. For months I believed ducks were lazy and never pecked around… they used to just sit all day. Not any more. Back to the ducklings, I’ll have to remember just how difficult they are to keep indoors. I have to put down new paper ever hour or so because of all the poo, and t hey get the water everywhere. They’re always soaked. They’ve been moved to a separate box, away from the chicks because they’re so messy. Despite the slime they create, the kids just adore them. They are beyond adorable creatures! Once placed in a more natural environment, the mess will disappear. That won’t be until late April… ugh!

-Amelie is blabbing like mad. We’re talking about a complete language explosion, and I’d say it’s about time. Her personality is blossoming as a result, and like the ducks, she’s been absolutely adorable! She’s still receiving speech therapy, and they’re evaluating her vocabulary and use of sounds. There is a possibility she has large tonsils that have gotten in the way of making certain sounds, especially the more nasal ones. She passed her hearing test on one ear, and the other ear’s canal was so small they couldn’t read it. One thing I know for certain is that she hears extremely well. We’re very excited about all the chatter she’s doing. I’ll have her tonsils and ear checked at her next Dr. visit.

-I’m talking to Liam’s father about having Liam over at his house for more frequent visits. At the moment, he only sees Sorin and Liam an average of one weekend a month, and some months none. After 16 years of ’round the clock care, I’m finally asking him for more help. I’m not counting on much, considering Liam’s dad really covets his freedom, but I cannot see how he can deny completely. I wrote him several days ago with no reply yet. I’m worn out, and so is the whole family. It’s becoming hard on everyone so we’re seeking natural supports first.

-Regarding the serious issues with Sky, we’re applying for a State Waiver to fund intervention for him. Another parent let me know about it (thank God) and if Sky qualifies, we’ll receive all the therapy he needs, all the therapy WE NEED as parents, along with case management, medication coverage, and much more for free until he’s 22. Because he’s adopted we won’t have to pay the usual monthly fee either. After talking with his therapist yesterday, it appears he should have no problem qualifying. I’m feeling a weight lifted because I was able to talk to one of the ladies on the parent support team yesterday… she was SO SUPPORTIVE and understanding about what we’re going through, and I felt completely validated in my concerns. It helped me realize how much of a drain it’s been putting on me, and how important it is to seek counseling for myself. Sky will have a team of two specialists for him, and two others set up for Daniel and I. We’ll all meet as a team every 90 days. I have NO EXPECTATIONS, other than my own acquisition of personal sanity, greater peace and inner strength. If it helps Sky, wonderful. If not, Daniel and I will be supported no matter what.

I had no idea this funding was available, but it’s apparently offered in most States. I’m disappointed that it took another mom to nudge me in the right direction, instead of  his psychiatrists, therapists, school counselors, etc. These social services (through the SRS) are in place for a reason, and we pay for them through our taxes. They were implemented to keep children in their homes, and out of State mental hospitals. I’d recommend any parent with serious concerns for their child’s emotional, psychological well-being to inquire with their local mental health center for grants and waivers. They don’t go by the family’s income for the Waiver, just the child’s personal assets (savings accounts, bonds, etc). With how terrible our health insurance coverage is, we’re jumping on it.

-Now, onto lighter subjects, Prasad has continued running. This is a relief to me after his 5k, which pretty much knocked his socks off. He was in tears afterward, then prideful and happy, then by that evening he was dreadful of any future runs. I’m guessing this is typical of runners. He had three days off from running, and Daniel took him on a 1 mile yesterday and he did great. He timed 1 mile at 9 minutes and 31 seconds. he’s looking forward to beating his times this week, and seems very excited again.

At the start of the 5k, Prasad turned to Daniel and said “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I’m ready, Dad.” Daniel said “Oh, yes you are Prasad. You can do so much more than you think you can.” There is something powerful that happens during and after a long run. Something that tells you you’re capable of doing just about anything. He completed the run in very good time, and we noticed Prasad went through elation and shock over having accomplished it. He has always felt inept socially, academically, and with sports, so he was not accustomed to feeling great at anything. I think he’s still stunned.. I know I’m still bursting with pride. The way he handles discomfort, agony and challenges is a reflection of how he will handle life, and he handles it with determination and perseverance. It tells me a lot of why he was able to endure what happened in India to him for almost 7 years.. he’s resilient, and he’s just starting to notice that about himself and embrace it.

-Soccer practice begins for Sky this evening. He’s thrilled, of course. Daniel and I are not because we haven’t been able to set up carpooling. We have 3 days a week of soccer practice and games, and our drive to the field is 30 minutes one way. We often came home during practice, but probably won’t this time due to fuel costs. I love that Sky plays sports, but am wishing it wasn’t so much of a time and gas hog. Here’s hoping we find a family to carpool with at practice today!

-As for the little farmstead, we’ve been indoors mostly due to cold and wet weather. I’ve used the time to clear out and do a lot of Spring cleaning. Temps will start rising tomorrow, and things will change considerably. Daniel thinned out some little spinach plants in the greenhouse yesterday, and brought them inside for his salad. He was so joyful because it was the first thing he’s ever planted from seed that he was able to eat. He gave the ducks and chickens some, too, and they went to town! The greenhouse is  going to be a huge plus for us during the colder months. Daniel says he could stay in it all day, considering it’s so silent and peaceful. Personally, I’m dying to plant our tomatoes and blueberries in the garden beds… we have a few weeks to go yet.

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