fresh mountain air

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Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

first day of fall

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Last Saturday was the first day of fall, my favorite season officially arriving at last.  I had hoped to make the day an autumnal celebration, but as is so often the case things went differently than planned.  Philippa wasn’t feeling well, I had only gotten a few hours of sleep, and Brandon was working so the thought of pulling much together was exhausting.  Still, I was thankful I had a few things ready beforehand so we could still make it special.  The children hung a leaf banner for me on the mantle and I pulled out little baby pumpkins for them to paint, which we’ve done for a few years now.  I had hoped to plant some flower bulbs around our property but couldn’t muster the energy.

For me, the coming of fall is much anticipated, bringing all its beautiful colors, crisp air, and coziness.  I don’t mind winter and the cold short days one bit, in fact I crave it, but I know many people dread the long season of cold and dark.  It will be my first time planting bulbs this year, and it struck me a bit poetic, planting for spring now just before winter.  Planning and anticipating the season that will come because of the work of the season I’m in now.  These flowers need to overwinter in the soil.

I had woken up that Saturday morning with so little sleep behind me and another long day ahead, and I was fighting discouragement.  When I’m in that place, I should know better than to give much credit to my thoughts, but I was feeling overwhelmed by all I’m trying to juggle lately, I was feeling discouraged about this blog space.  I feel like I have less and less time to write, which is why I primarily began blogging (a space to share everything God teaches me along the way, a place to pay attention to His presence in my ordinary days).  I feel like my purpose in blogging gets muddled, and who really reads along anyway?  For so much work and effort squeezed into such little pockets of time, is it really worthwhile?  There is so much on the table, and so little I can feasibly give myself to.  Yet that very morning, God sent along some particular encouragement to keep going even if I can’t see where it is all headed.

You see, we do important work in our winters.  There are some things in us that simply MUST overwinter before the fruit is born.  We can’t rush the story.  We can’t see now where our faithfulness in this present season will take us.  We need to stop worrying about our destinations so much, and instead trust the process that will lead us there.  Be faithful here, plan for spring, hope for blooms, but carry on into winter.

This past Saturday was a much better day.  With the children, I planted a couple varieties of tulips, allium, and daffodils, along with some clematis plants a friend had given to us.  We will be eager to see them in spring, and will think often of those little bulbs all snug in the frozen soil throughout the winter.

“Gardens are born in winter.  Not only in fireside dreams, but also in the messy work of tending small pots on sunny windowsills.  And in the harsh work of planting early seeds in cold soil…

I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season.  These are still planting days.  These are the early days of small beginnings.  Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.”

-Christie Purifoy

Also, the maple pumpkin custard I made for dessert to celebrate the autumn equinox recipe was found here and it was easy and a big hit with everyone!

making progress

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.

our first week

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So many firsts this week I hardly know where to begin.  Even though our homeschool co-op began a couple of weeks ago, we had our official first week of school this week and it went surprisingly better than I had thought it would.  I spent a lot of time this summer dreading, moaning, and complaining to my husband about school starting up and all the new things I would be juggling this year versus last year, all my fears and worries and things I wasn’t sure how to approach.

The reality is that it is always better to just get going and work out the kinks as they come.  I always feel a big sense of relief once we just get started.  I’ve made some changes in my expectations and my managing of household duties that I think will really help our school year.  For instance, instead of trying to quickly get school done in the mornings so we have time before lunch to run to the store, library or park, I’m devoting all of our mornings to being home until lunch time.  If we finish earlier, great, but at least I need to remove that pressure from all of us.  Errands will have to be run in the afternoons after the little one’s naps (which is not my preference), and some errands just devoted to weekends or evenings.  Already I can tell that one little shift has made a big difference in my stress level with school–we have all morning to be home and to work.

This year, I feel like I jumped from homeschooling one child to homeschooling three.  Since Noah is now busy for a bit in the mornings with school, Philippa also wants to have “work” to do until her brother/compatriot is free to play.  (I’m a big fan of letting children be children for as long as possible and not beginning any formal educating until 5 or 6 at minimum, but this little precocious 3 year old just won’t be left out.)  I also know that if we don’t get started right away and I don’t capture their attention early in the day, they lose focus and motivation pretty quickly.  It just so happens that this week Wren has been unusually fussy and skipping naps like crazy, and I realized she was cutting her first two teeth.  Of course that would need to happen this week!  So on top of trying to figure out how to jump between two kids asking questions and Phoebe’s adjusting to not having mom’s full and undivided attention, a 3 year old who wants to be in on the game, there’s been a lot of time shushing a hysterical overtired baby.  However, with all that said, it really went pretty well.  I feel more calm and relaxed, I have a better understanding of how to approach teaching phoebe (with some insights that we received from the state-required testing she did over the summer), and I’m learning that we have more space and time to experiment, stretch, and savor than I think we do.  It’s funny, teaching kindergarten to another child, chanting the “five vowels” poem with another little one and remembering how far we’ve come, Phoebe and I, since then.  So I’m telling myself to slow down, to enjoy these precious days because they will never come again.

The work, the planning, the weight of knowing their education is on my shoulders–it is the part of homeschooling that I like the least, but in reality, I so treasure and love this work.  I can’t believe we get to do this, and I’m so thankful.  So very thankful.  We may barely be able to pay the bills, but it is worth it to have this time with them during these fleeting years.  And God is faithful!  He always provides.

We are continuing to make some changes to our little school room, some improvements.  I am working to keep us more settled in that room as we work versus spreading out all over the house (as we used to last year).  It is helping as well!  Brandon has been building me a nice big chalkboard because I simply can’t do without it any more, as well as a “floating” sort of desk for Phoebe.  I’ll share some photos of them once we’re done.  Weekends are everything–so much that has to be packed into those two precious days!  Slowly we are getting little house projects done.

In other news, Wren has moved into her big-girl crib in Noah’s room and also started her first solids this week.  She isn’t terribly productive or interested in eating yet, but she is curious and feels very grown up to be eating like the big kids do.  She is really changing and growing so quickly and I did cry a little when I saw those two bottom teeth poking through her little gums.  I remember how it felt like it took FOREVER for Phoebe to turn six months old, eat solids, begin teething.  I couldn’t wait for her to move onto the next thing!  Now, I just want to slow it all down.  It seriously feels like we just brought Wren home from the hospital and already she is beginning the first real stages of growing up and growing independent.  Of course, it’s all good but you parents know what I mean–these are bittersweet changes.

Crunchy leaves are beginning to accumulate in our yard bringing the earliest feeling of fall, even though September in our neck of the woods can be quite humid and sweltering so I keep telling myself the worst of summer’s heat isn’t behind us yet.  Those fall winds are almost here and then with all the busy activities of October (my favorite month!) and the birthdays and holidays of November/December, it will be New Year before we know it.

wild blueberries

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Come August, the blueberries ripen up in the cool mountain air. I had planned to officially begin our school year this week, but decided instead to get a few more things ready before jumping in.  It would be better for me to begin peacefully rather than frenetically, although there’s a measure of feeling unprepared that will likely always accompany homeschooling (for me at least).  Instead of beginning our usual school day, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the berries are abundant this time of year.  I still called it our first day of school, and it was a happy way to begin for us all, though Noah keeps asking to begin the work of letters and numbers.

Of course, as we got going it began to drizzle and the parkway was foggy most of the drive but everyone wanted to keep going so we did.  (I had planned to bring my regular camera along but because of the rain I just used my phone, so pardon the different quality of photo.)  Wren doesn’t sleep well if we aren’t home, rarely sleeping in the car and too curious about what is going on around her if we are out and about.  She was up way past her usual morning nap time and was very fussy when we began hiking and picking.  She also doesn’t love the ergo, but we carried on.  Finally, she fell asleep in the ergo and I was able to get a little more picking accomplished.  The kids did a good job picking but of course they didn’t gather very much, phoebe spilling most of her basket of berries after stumbling at some point.  Still we came home with about a half gallon and I would love to go back just with Brandon and pick as much as we can to freeze for the winter.  There isn’t a better spot to get organic, wild fresh blueberries and best of all, they are free!  It just requires time and work. 🙂

While we all kept our eyes and ears open for bears which definitely frequent that area, we only saw a brown snake which was sizable but didn’t look venomous.  I’m guessing it was some sort of water moccasin but we steered clear of it just the same.  It was a great teaching opportunity with the kids, though.

The children requested blueberry pancakes the next morning, and we read Blueberries for Sal, one of my favorite books from childhood.  The rest of the berries I’ve tucked into the freezer for a crisp or muffins, or to have over homemade ice cream.  Phoebe kept exclaiming how she felt like Laura Ingalls, and I felt a bit like Sal’s mother trying to preserve a bit of summer’s glory for cold winter days sure to come soon.

growing up

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He’s long overdue for a “big boy” bike, my boy.  He had a little bit of birthday money that I set aside for a new bike, and Brandon looked for awhile online before settling on this one.  It was a real treat to watch him open that box and help daddy put the bike together.  When he realized it didn’t have training wheels (he’s just been riding a strider) he panicked a little bit and didn’t think he’d be able to do it.  It’s a bit big and heavy for him, so I was a little concerned, too, that it would be too hard.  Then, we had rain for days so he couldn’t take it outside to try it.  Finally, the sun came out and he tried it out on the grass.  He pretty quickly caught on to riding Phoebe’s (a bit smaller) bike without training wheels but didn’t feel comfortable with his bike.  By day two, he had it down.  He called me to come outside and see, and there he was pedaling it around with a big grin on his face.

Often this little man of mine balks at something new and I hear a lot of “I can’t”s from him before he’s really given it a try.  Our homeschool co-op starts up on Monday (in just a few days!) and as Noah thinks about school starting, he’s been panicking and saying “but I don’t know how to read or write!”  Oh, sweet boy, that’s the whole point, I say.  I keep reminding him about his bike, how he thought he couldn’t do it and that he’d HAVE to have training wheels.  And then by day two, he had it down and has been out riding it every day since.  I can’t believe this has been my last summer with this guy before he starts formal (home)schooling.  And I can’t wait to have time with him, to work with him on letters and sounds and seeing his little mind come alive with the joy of learning and realizing he can do it! He’s growing up!

no big plans

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Quite a few people have asked me over the last few months if we have any big plans for summer.  I was sitting in a dentist’s chair last week and she asked me about summer plans, and when I said no, not really, she looked truly puzzled and like she maybe felt a little sorry for me.  Any big summer plans?  Fun trips scheduled?  I had hoped to make a checklist on our kitchen chalkboard for our summer goals, but really we don’t have much on the agenda and I think that’s the point.  I feel a bit small and a bit simple but these are our big summer plans: being home, watching things grow.  Having time together.  Swimming at my parent’s neighborhood pool or in a river nearby.  Hiking, camping.  Catching fireflies.  Trying out the pop-up camper in our backyard, then taking it out on the road.  Enjoying the afternoon storms.  Watching tomatoes ripen on the vine, swiss chard push up from seed.  Reading together.  Yarn, pulling through fingers.  Quieting.  Regrouping for a new school year.  Letting there be long stretches of unplanned day, enough time for some boredom even.  Don’t such fascinating discoveries and creativities come out of a little boredom?  Also, the not-as-fun essentials of some medical appointments for the kids, learning about some changes we will have to make in our schooling with phoebe, working on house projects that are neglected during the busyness of school.

A homeschooling family of six on one income makes for tight years (financially) especially with the special dietary and medical expenses we face.  Truth is, we are happy to make the sacrifice to be together and enjoy these little years and raise our brood.  It is the main reason I homeschool: time together.  It is costly in the sense that we do have great limitations, but I do so hope and believe we can still make great memories together with our family even with our simple summer of no plans.  (Of course, don’t misunderstand me.  We are so imperfect and the proximity can often cause us to grate on one another.)

Brandon is working some Saturdays to help pay for the new AC unit we will have to soon buy, so it was a bit glum this weekend without him.  Then he called on his way home Saturday and said he wanted to put up the pop-up camper and have the kids sleep in it for the first time.  It was stormy and cool and the perfect evening to do so, and the kids had such a blast.  I opted to sleep inside with baby wren which was a bit of a treat for me, too (a quiet house!)

I read the other day that the word Sabbath literally means “to stop,” and so we try to plan some time into our weekend where we cease.  Where the work sits untended, the laundry stays in the basket and wrinkles, and we allow ourselves to just be.  To rest and to even be a little bored and agitated with the slowness of the pace and “unproductivity” of the day.  It reveals to me how much I mix my sense of accomplishment with my sense of worth, how much I need to produce in order to feel worthwhile.  The permission to rest is so wise and kind of God, and I have to tell my soul and my God over and over in those moments of tension (when I fight rest) that He is our provider and the One who carries us, not our own work and effort.  When we “sabbath,” or cease from working, we fast from reliance on our own strength + work.  We remind our soul that we are dependent on a good and faithful Provider.  We say to the world that our confidence comes from whose we are, not the work of our own hands.  Maybe summer could be sort of like the sabbath of the seasons?

Anyway, I feel a bit ramble-y and scattered but hopefully you are encouraged, as I am, to rest a bit and enjoy the slow and even boring/mundane parts of summer instead of needing it to be big and flashy and busy.  May you find in your limitations a wise and kind boundary set by your God.  I have thought often of Psalm 16:6, which in my earlier meditations of it always seemed sweet to me when my boundaries/limits were easy.  But it is a hard thing to thank God for (limits/boundaries) when they are difficult and truly limiting.  It presses us to cast our eyes beyond what is temporal to the delightful inheritance that is being kept for us.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord,
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:5-8 esv

Ps. Refrigerator pickles recipe pictured above from Allison Little on Instagram, and they are truly the best pickles I’ve ever had.