pickles, flowers, birds, and a schoolroom update

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It never fails to surprise me how quickly the summer weeks go by.  It seems we barely have anything going on, this year especially, and yet somehow it feels full and busy.  Then all of a sudden it’s August and we are nearly ready to begin another school year.  It may have something to do with the fact that I put off a lot of bigger projects until the bigger breaks (Christmas and summer) and then suddenly I feel like I have a small window to get a lot of things done.  I want to clean and tidy and reorganize all the chaos that has spilled out over the last several months, but attempting to do so with four children underfoot is challenging and feels like an exercise in futility.  I realized this summer that since we will be adding another student this fall (yay, Philippa!) I need a bigger work space to gather children around and sit by them to assist.  I have been cramming myself into a kiddie chair at a very small kiddie table for the last year when I’ve worked with Noah and it finally dawned on me that this wasn’t going to work any longer.  Praise the Lord.  Environment does make such a difference.

So with some moving around of furniture that we already had and buying a few new items to spruce up our school room, we’ve slowly been making changes over the summer.  After three years of living in this house and the prior owners leaving the wood windows half painted in the schoolroom, we finally painted them and the laundry room door also.  It is amazing how something so small makes such a nice difference!  It just looks tidier.  We were given a couple of old hutches and I decided to use one in the school room as a homeschool cabinet.  I will probably paint it in the future, but I do like the original wood.  We’ve been filling the glass top part of it with nature finds that we’ve been saving.  The bottom part will hold puzzles, manipulatives, books, and whatever else we need to keep organized in there.  Brandon put better lighting in also (can lights) because this room is the darkest in the house and that doesn’t make for a great school space.  It has been fun to focus on just one room and make it suited to our needs.  It’s amazing how the kids are drawn more to this space now and I think it is going to work better for us this school year.  I used to spread out and do school at the kitchen table or in the living room, and we still do that for some subjects.  But it has made a big difference for us to work in a dedicated space and keep all of our supplies handy.  It makes it easier for me to grab what we need and helps everyone’s attention spans.

Meanwhile, the garden has been growing, growing.  I’ve neglected weeding it for the past couple of weeks with the high heat, humidity, and the more pressing projects in the house sorting curriculum, planning, and reorganizing.  It’s a bit wild out there now as one can only expect it to be come August.  Our cucumbers continue to abound so I made a batch of refrigerator pickles using this recipe.  (I didn’t use as much sugar and used more peppercorn and mustard seed.)  So good and easy.  We are able to share a lot of what we grow with others and that is always a joy.  I’m thankful for all the flowers, enjoying watching them bloom and cutting some to bring indoors.  Noah has been obsessed with drawing birds from this atlas, he has done at least twenty different drawings by now and they’re really good.  He told me tonight that he wants to set up a stand tomorrow by the road and sell them.

The kids seem relatively happy but I wonder how all of these changes in our world are affecting them.  Noah said at dinner tonight that he wondered when the virus would be over and all the stores could open up again.  I realize we forget to tell them some of the updates happening, that many places are open again but there are still restrictions in place.  Still, it doesn’t feel “normal” to them yet and it’s uncertain for all of us what normal will be from here on out.  Our homeschool co-op will begin in a few weeks, it is a very small group and we are able to continue meeting.  Hopefully that will restore a bit of normalcy for them, but who knows what this fall and winter season will hold?

Some “before” shots of our school room:

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In progress:

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Current iteration:

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I will share a few more photos maybe as I finish up in there.  I am still organizing the shelves and my desk area.  Little bits of work in little chunks of time.  I hope in the next few weeks we are well prepared for a new and maybe altogether different school year.  I’m beginning to feel excited about it.

 

 

 

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.

projects

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A couple of weekends ago, Brandon and I took the kids to a local historic home, the Carl Sandburg House.  It is peaceful and quiet there, with easy trails to walk.  We went on a Sunday afternoon, packed a picnic lunch and spread a blanket under the shade of some great trees in the gardens.  Afterwards we went to visit the baby goats.  I had already taken the kids on a previous weekend when Brandon had been working on the flooring in our laundry room + kitchen.  (More on that in a minute.)  Brandon has talked about wanting goats for years now, so I knew he’d enjoy visiting with them.  I’m not ready to own goats right now, but maybe down the road?  I love the Nubian goats with the long ears the best, I think.  The nubian kids were the cutest running around, just like puppies. We got to see Nellie, the grandma goat of the crew, who was laying in the grass one day past her due date with multiples.  I felt sorry for her!  She looked weary.  Philippa dutifully checked all of the goats ears, noses and mouths for them. 🙂  By now, I’m sure Nellie has brought a new litter of kids into the world.  Savannah, the goat with the little hand-knitted sweater on, was just a few days old, and we all loved meeting + petting her.

It was good for us to take a day and set aside projects, enjoy a little bit of the quiet of the outdoors, and just be together.  The last few months have felt chaotic and we’re just starting to feel like we can find  a new normal again.  Phoebe’s good test results have made us feel like we can breathe a bit in terms of worrying over her.  She goes for another general check-up in six months, unless we see something that concerns us.  So for now, I’m trying to allow myself to rest in those good test results (versus worry and be fearful which is my MO) and allow myself to believe/hope that the worst is behind us.  I was talking with a friend recently whose daughter has just come out of having brain cancer–obviously a far scarier ordeal than Phoebe’s in a lot of respects.  But we both agreed and understood one another in how hard it is to hear GOOD news after hearing a lot of bad.  In order to survive you begin to stay in a continual place of bracing for the next disappointment/bad result, and it’s very hard to shut that off.  I don’t know how people walk through things like this without knowing the Lord.  I don’t know that I would have made it through without Him!  Even still, I look to Him for rest and healing and hope.  I lean on Him to carry me now into this new season with its own set of joys and challenges.

Much of our “free” time in the evenings or weekends has been taken up with little projects here and there, fixing leaky faucets, replacing broken things, finishing the flooring job, etc.  I am thankful Brandon is so good at all of these things!  The flooring we put down was to cover a section of the home that had asbestos tile in it (the laundry room was the worst, as you can see that part of it had been disturbed).  It brings me a lot more peace of mind knowing we have covered that area and I’m really happy with our flooring choice!

We borrowed a neighbor’s tiller (after I attempted to till by hand) and are preparing a small little portion of the yard for a garden.  I know, we are late!!  I was debating putting off a garden until next year, since we still aren’t even fully settled or unpacked!  It seems silly to start another time-consuming outside project when we have so much work to do inside.  However, we have so missed growing a portion of our own food the last couple of years when we were renting (and had ZERO sun in our yard).  We just couldn’t resist, and I’m glad we are going for it!  I picked up a few things from the garden center today and hopefully things will grow well, despite our late start.