Thursday, June 30, 2011

Not Prepared for This!

We've been knocked down with a stomach bug and I mean KNOCKED DOWN FLAT!  Caedmon started with it on Monday and he is fine now.  Five of the rest of were struck down last night. It was a very long night!  It's hard to take care of sick kids when you are sick yourself.

Amazingly Devin is not sick, so she will be heading out to get some needed supplies.

ginger ale
peppermint tea
red grape juice
Caedmon's gluten free, dairy free, egg free French toast....cause he is hungry!

What do you keep in stock for sick times like this?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Last week we were dehydrating oregano and talking about the health benefits of that wonderful herb.  Today I want to share some info with you about sage.  It's not just for sausage!

Here's an old English saying regarding sage:  "He that would live for ever should eat sage in May."  Sage is an aromatic evergreen plant that grows up to two feet tall.  Two years ago we planted three sage plants and they are big and beautiful!   The leaves can be harvested all year round and it produces beautiful purplish flowers that attract butterflies and bees.

Last year we harvested our sage in the early fall.  We bundled up the sage leaves with rubber bands and then tied them with wire on to a couple of metal wreath frames.  They hung on the wall through the winter and we took them down in the early spring to crush the leaves for cooking use.  It really doesn't take that long for the sage to dry out, but I liked the natural touch of the wreaths and enjoyed them for several months.

Wreath made from sage and thyme with berries from the dogwood trees

Sage has antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, diuretic and estrogen-balancing properties.  It is an extremely useful medicinal herb that can help calm  a winter cough, aid in digestion and is a natural antibiotic.  Make a tea using either fresh or dried herbs to fight coughs, colds, chest infections and the flu.   It should only be consumed for up to four days as it is extremely powerful.   The tea is also used as a gargle for sore throats and as a mouthwash to help heal ulcers and sore gums.

A huge bowl of sage, freshly cut from the garden was washed a prepared for the dehydrator.  After dehydrating for about 12 hours, I was able to crush the dried leaves and sift them through a wire strainer.

 Here is the sage on the wire racks of the dehydrator.

I now have a big jar of crushed sage and I even made a few tea bags using a coffee filter cut in half.  I will definitely be drying more sage to keep for the winter as coughs and colds are sure to arrive.  Are you saving herbs to use for medicinal purposes?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meaningful Planning for Our Homeschool and a Planner Review

I've been homeschooling my children for the last 23 years.  You would think that I've got the planning thing down pat, but let me tell you....I. Do. Not!!  When our family first started homeschooling I had just recently completed a master's degree in education.  My oldest daughter's lesson plans for kindergarten would have gotten me an A in some of my educational classes but behavioral objectives were really not called for in our homeschool and I quickly learned to plan a different way.  Listing chapters of books that we read aloud, KONOS activities completed, math pages or flash cards reviewed, phonics and early reading activities soon took the place of those long behavioral objectives.

I few years later I was given Marilyn Rockett's Time Minder and used it for over 15 years.  She had many, many useful forms that were reproducible that I still have......somewhere in my file cabinet that has become disorganized and disused in the last couple of years.  That file cabinet seems to mirror my homeschooling for the last couple of years as well.  Yes, we have been doing school.  Yes, my children have been learning, but we are not as organized and well-planned as we should be.  Once life started changing around here it seems to never let up.  In the last 5 1/2 years we had one daughter marry and have three children in that time and added a seventh baby to our own family.  Yes, my daughter and I managed to be pregnant at the same time!  We have also been convinced that we should be more focused on homesteading  and healthy living in the last couple of years.  Cooking from scratch, gardening, canning and food storage take up a good bit of time and we haven't even added in the animals yet!  It's been a challenge trying to stay on track educationally with all the life changes going on but we do feel that all of life is an education and there is much that the children, Jeff and I have learned through all of our changes.


Thanks to the Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 High School Homeschool Planner, this year may be the year I get our academics and household routines back together!  I was sent the downloadable high school planner to review recently and have been madly printing out copies of various forms for my homeschool binder and for my 12 and 14 year old children's assignment notebooks as well.

In the 2011-2012 High School Homeschool Planner you will find so many great forms to help you in planning and organizing your school year.  Some that I am personally using are the printable calendars (some are even interactive--meaning you can type your information on them before printing), lists of must-know facts from different subject areas that I will print and put in their subject notebooks, weekly planning sheets to write their assignments on, to-do lists for extra work or activities, instrument practice forms to record piano and violin practice times, forms to keep track of time spent on each assignment for each subject, journal pages, vocabulary forms, logs for books read, videos watched and tapes or cds listened to.   There is even a generic daily planner with enough space for me to write out our group time plans and lesson plans for my toddler and 6 year old.  Bible memorization forms will also be included.

My state doesn't require attendance records and evaluation forms, but those are included in the planner as well as transcript forms, grading planners, forms to chronicle scouting activities and so much more.

Printing out all the forms available would more than fill up a 2 inch notebook.  The beauty of this planner is that you can print out what you need for your students and leave the rest!  Your student's planner will be very personal including forms that you and your student choose just for his use.

I am very grateful to have been given the privilege of reviewing this planner and hope to use it diligently as we prepare our students to live a life that is more organized and orderly.  If they don't learn it during these formative years then they will most likely never learn it.  That's another one of those life lessons that sometimes slips up on us and we miss the opportunity to teach it to our children.  I am looking forward to what this new school year will bring and praying that all that we do will bring glory to God.

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Monday, June 27, 2011

It Takes a Family to Build a Homestead

We are trying to take our homesteading efforts to the next level and incorporate farm animals.  We've had some animals before...a couple of horses, some sheep and a handful of chickens, but now we are trying to get serious about it.  Amy recently wrote about gardening as if her life depended upon it and that really struck a chord with me!  There is no way we could live off of our garden at this point, but we are making plans for enlarging it with 2-3 times as many beds this winter and building a greenhouse for some year-round fresh vegetables.  

And, as we are not vegetarians, we also need to get meat animals.  We are planning on adding in a dairy cow, a couple of beef cows, a pig or two and meat and laying chickens.  In preparation for adding in our meat chickens we decided to build a chicken tractor.  I had hoped to convert a trampoline into a chicken tractor/run, but after finding a free one this week and having Jeff and the boys bring it home I quickly realized that my trampoline/chicken tractor transformation was just a dream.  The trampoline will remain a trampoline!

Jeff works with several homeschooling/homesteading dads and one of them had recently built a chicken tractor and shared the plans with him.  So, on Saturday morning Jeff and I had a little one-on-one time at Lowe's for all the materials and then a quick Sam's run.   Lowe's and Sam's are our favorite date spots lately!!  After we arrived back home, Jeff and the children quickly got to work on building our first chicken tractor.  It is not completed yet, but here are some pictures of the work in progress.  I will post a link in the next day or so as I cannot find it on the instructions.

Jordan is drilling holes into the metal pipes after cutting them to the right length.

Instructions, galvanized hardware screen, drill bits and screws used to build the chicken tractor.

Drilling the holes was a little tricky.

My porch rooster is checking out the future home of his more animated friends.

Devin even helps out to hold the pipes as Jordan drills the holes.

Kaelan watches for now.

Jeff, formulating the next step.  I often find him in this pose!!  He thinks a lot!

Now Kaelan gets to hold pipes  as it starts taking shape.

Tying the pipes together with a heavy wire

It took several helpers to get the job done!

Three pipes held together with wire

corner pieces

Chicken wire is on half of the top.  The job will be finished up this week.  I'll share later!

Aaron was mowing and weedeating during the time the Jeff and the others were building.  The little guys were on the trampoline.  ; (  Jackson did wake up complaining of his neck hurting the next morning.  Sigh!!

I've shared before about buying our clothes on the clearance racks.  This outfit for Caedmon was only $7 for all three pieces.  He will probably be able to wear it next year as well.

Jackson started asking for shirts and ties last year and I have found a couple for him.  This shirt and tie combo made by Izod was less than $3!  I found polo-style shirts for the big boys at less than $3 as well.  They weren't too interested in posing before church yesterday, though!!   Love, love, love great clearance rack finds.  Saving money on clothes and necessary items is one of my contributions to the homestead.

 Every day we are picking a handful of strawberries and a pint or two of blueberries.  These ever-bearing strawberry plants were clearance rack buys as well.  I got 12 plants for $1.25 each last year.  They made lots of baby plants and we divided them into about 80 plants this year.  I gave most of them away.  Next year we will add more strawberry beds and use a different kind of strawberry that can be harvested in just a couple of weeks.

I think we will wind up with about three gallons from two bushes.  A first for us!!

Another first...hard squashes growing on a trellis!

Cucumbers are a first as well!

I can't wait for these and their little friends to ripen!!

Our basil is doing great!  We are making pesto each week and freezing it for use this winter!

We've started harvesting and drying sage to use in cooking and for medicinal use.  I post more about it later!

Cucumbers are waiting to be turned into pickles today!

Time for me to get up and get some more work done.  As you can see, we've got lots to do around our little homestead!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Menu Plan for June 27-July 3

This week we are still trying to clear out from the freezers.  Our lunches will be leftovers, pasta salads, flat bread with hummus, popcorn, fruit and raw veggies.

     Breakfast-leftover pancakes and biscuits with eggs and bacon
     Dinner-purple hull peas, squash casserole, corn, broccoli, tomatoes and cornbread

     Breakfast-toast and grits or granola
     Dinner-turkey ala king  with biscuits, mashed potatoes and green beans

     Breakfast-applesauce muffins
     Dinner-spaghetti, salad, rolls

     Breakfast-blueberry biscuits, eggs, grits or granola
     Dinner-meatball stroganoff over rice, green beans, corn on the cob

     Breakfast-baked oatmeal
     Dinner-pizzas, salad, dessert

    Breakfast-biscuits, sausage, eggs, grits, fried apples
     Dinner-white beans with ham, fried potatoes and onions, turnip greens or spinach, corn bread

     Breakfast-cinnamon rolls
     Visiting with Jeff's parents for the rest of Sunday's meals

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preparedness Challenge June 25

Several weeks ago someone posted on FB about how some folks were turning old trampolines into chicken tractors.  Chicken tractors are chicken coops that can be moved to a different area each day which keeps the chickens contained and protected while allowing them to get some free-range benefits as well.

As I tend to be a tightwad  frugal when it comes to our homesteading expenditures I was quickly in love with this idea.  Now where on earth could I find a used trampoline or at least the frame?  I asked around on FB and no one had a trampoline to part with.  I did get some comments of disbelief regarding my request for a trampoline as many of my family and friends know that I do mot care for trampolines.   I know of many children who have broken limbs while playing on them and Kaelan needs no additional encouragement to break her arms.  At three she broke one arm falling from our slide in the front yard.  At 7-ish (is it bad that I can't remember how old she was?  I can remember we were studying the Cooperation unit from KONOS--the human body specifically) we were at our KONOS co-op meeting and she was playing on the swings and fell/jump out and, yes, broke her other arm.  And it was no coincidence that the following week we would be studying the skeletal system.  At age 12 she still sees the bone doctor once or twice a year for evaluation.

Lo, and behold, this week a local contact alerted everyone on FB that she had a trampoline to get rid of....I jumped in quickly (no pun intended!) and committed Jeff and the boys to an evening of trampoline retrieval.    It is now in our front yard.  And I think I am going to have a hard time getting it converted into a chicken tractor.  The head man is not too sure it will be easy to do and he had already obtained some chicken tractor plans from a co-worker on the same day that the trampoline came into our lives.  He and the children seem to think the trampoline is too nice to become a chicken tractor any time soon and it should remain as it was intended to be.  I, on the other hand, think this free trampoline may prove much too costly if and when one of my children breaks a limb.

Trampoline or chicken tractor?

Whether the conversion takes place or not, today has been deemed chicken tractor supply gathering day.  We hope to order about 50 meat birds in the next couple of weeks and will need to get things ready quickly!

The past couple of weeks have been full of canning!!  I have also been freezing a few items.  I can see that the freezers will have to be cleaned out very soon and we need to eat or can what we have in there so that we will have room for the chickens!  This is what we have done in the last few weeks.

  • 2 quarts turkey stock
  • 12 quarts beef stock
  • 17 pints applesauce
  • 9 quarts frozen blueberries
  • 12 half pints peach butter
  • 6 quart bags of peaches
  • 5 quarts frozen strawberries
  • 4 8 oz containers of pesto for the freezer
  • 36 pints of milk
  • 26 quarts canned pinto beans
  • 19 half pints strawberry jam
  • 12 pints canned blueberries
  • 12 pint jars of peaches
  • 1 quart pureed strawberries for fruit leathers
  • 1 pint dehydrated carrots
  • 1 gallon dehydrated onions
  • 1 gallon dehydrated mushrooms
  • And several pounds of butter in the freezer as well!
Empty tomato, apple and peach boxes!!

For years I prepared frozen meals for the freezer, but I have recently become convinced that I should can as many meals as possible.  We've been enjoyed the canned pinto beans which can quickly be combined with ground beef for beef and bean tostados or can be put in the blender with seasonings to become refried beans.  I hope to can a variety of beans, soups, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, meatballs, stews and more for quick and easy meals!

I have realized, though, why canning became a dying art form!  It is so much easier and less time consuming to freeze your produce!!  I do think that the upfront work that is involved with canning will be beneficial in the long run due to the convenience of not having to thaw the foods and being prepared with foods that can easily be used in case of power outages.  And, I have to admit that seeing all the beautiful foods prepared in jars brings a smile to my face.  Now, if I just had a good place to store them!

Making peach butter

Add the rings

Yummy looking and ready for the canner

In the water bath canner

We'll be  adding another 100 pounds of pinto beans and another 100 pounds of oats to our pantry next week along with two cases of rice milk for my dairy free little man.  We've discovered an oil shortage in the pantry this week, so it's off to Sam's I am today with a shopping list that contains much more than oil.  When I return I have a dozen cucumbers to turn into pickles.  Like so much else we are currently doing around here, this will be a first.  I am eager to see how this turns out.

In the amount of time it took me to start and finish this post I have become aware that the trampoline WILL remain as intended.  It was a 7:1 decision and you know who that lone one is...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Life Learning

So much of our education comes from just living the life that God has given us.   Twenty-three years ago when we first started on our homeschooling journey I don't believe that Jeff and I had any ideas of where this walk would lead us.  Visions of two little girls learning to read, write and study God's Word and His creation floated in my mind's eye, but never would I have dreamed that we would still be on this journey 23 years later and still have at least 16 years to go as our family grew to include seven children and now, three grandchildren as well.

Our current life lessons seem to be focused on homesteading activities and I am really enjoying these lessons.  This week we have been canning applesauce and today we'll tackle beef and turkey broths, tomatoes, pickles and more applesauce.  We have potatoes to dehydrate and onions to freeze.  Kaelan made a big batch of dough yesterday for cinnamon rolls and I rolled them out for breakfast this morning.  I spread my own homemade butter over the dough, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and then rolled them up, sliced and baked.  Topped with icing made with more homemade butter, they were simply delicious.

Jeff commented after finishing his second cinnamon roll that our daughters sure could cook!!  Well, I reminded him that Kaelan made the dough, but I finished them up this morning!  There were/are extremely tasty and he also commented about the fresh taste of the butter.....and that we will soon be getting our own cow!  We have so enjoyed getting fresh milk for the last several months and I admit, have become a little snobbish now about our homemade milk products.  Oh, and we sit around drooling over cheese and soap making products from the Hoegger's Catalog and other products from Lehman's!!

This weekend we'll be busy building our first chicken tractor in preparation for ordering about 50 meat birds.  We're using a trampoline which was given to us just this week!  I'm sure I'll be posting pictures about that adventure soon.

Learning is more than just reading and writing.  Learning from real life is so much fun!  We are so very grateful that God as opened our eyes to learning in new ways with our children.  Yes, WITH!!  Our excitement for life learning is contagious and our children are catching the vision of becoming self-sufficient as much as possible and learning to live a more meaningful life that is not tied to the latest new-fangled toys, gadgets and clothing trends.   And in all this learning it seems that there is a much deeper awareness of the beauty and bounty that God as provided for us and a desire to use our resources for His glory.

So, what is God teaching you as you walk through life with your family?  Has your walk taken directions you would never have expected?  Please share!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


In the past two years we have been experimenting with growing our own herbs.  We have had peppermint and spearmint for several years and have enjoyed hot mint teas and iced tea.  Last year we added many more herbs to our garden:  sage, thyme, lemon balm and oregano.  This year we have gone even further with chives, stevia, rosemary, apple mint, chocolate mint, sweet mint and another mint that I can't recall right now!  One great benefit to these herbs is that they are all perennials!!  Only one purchase last for years and years!

I thought I would share how we are using some of these herbs in the next few weeks.  Today we'll look at oregano.  We all know oregano is terrific for Italian dishes like spaghetti, lasagna and pizzas, but it is also good used fresh in green salads.  It can also be added to bread doughs for a wonderful herbed bread or pizza crust.

Oregano also has a few medicinal uses that we hope to test as needed.  You can use the fresh leaves to make an infusion (think tea) that is claimed to help headaches, menstrual cramps, insomnia and aid in digestion.  Adding leaves to bathwater may ease aching muscles and hot compresses made with a very strong infusion can help clean and reduce the swelling of cuts and wounds.  In medieval times, oregano was strewn on the floor along with the rushes to help mask the smells of rotting food and unsanitary living conditions.

This week I began harvesting some of our oregano that was growing like crazy and dehydrated it.  I washed the cut stems and let dry on a towel then placed on the racks of the dehydrator.  After it was dry I was easily able to pull the dried leaves from the stems and gently crush them into a bowl.  I now have about 1/2 a cup of home-grown dried oregano to store for winter use.  I will be drying lots more in the's a simple way to preserve for year 'round use.

Raising Homemakers

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Education: Amy Carmichael Style

I am currently reading Elizabeth Elliott's A Chance to Die The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.  I am finding it very interesting that her greatest missionary endeavor became her "work" as mother to hundreds of orphans.  She started with girls, but wound up having boys in her compound at Dohnavur, in the Southeast part of India.

Here is an excerpt from the book describing some of her thoughts on educating the children.  I find them quite remarkable and they really mesh with some of the same goals and objectives that Jeff and I have for our own children.  There is a lot to consider.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Amy Carmichael's aim:  to lead children out of themselves and into service for others, "untarnished by earthly thoughts."

This meant that Dohnavur workers must be of one mind about at least eight things:
     following the Crucified;
     loyalty towards one another;
     continuing to be a family, not an institution;
     being on guard against the foes of keenness and spiritual joy;
     counting it an honor if they were made a spectacle to the world, to angels and men;
     asking the Lord to mark His cross on natural choices;
     unreserved renunciation of everything human beings generally love, and desire for what the Lord Jesus Christ loved;
     willingness to be "set at nought."

Truth, loyalty, and honor were put first.  "Truth once given form becomes imperishable," but let the edges of truth be blurred, and that pure form is very difficult to recover."

Work was always mixed with play, even for toddlers.  The smallest child could learn to tidy the bungalow or help peel palmshoots.  Others husked rice, picked tamarind fruit, cleaned rice vessels.  Songs helped:

          Jesus, Savior, dost Thou see
          When I'm doing work for Thee?
          Common things, not great and grand,
         Carrying stones and earth and sand?

          I did common work, you know,
          Many, many years ago;
          And I don't forget.  I see
          Everything you do for Me.

This concept made the children "particular about the backs of places."  "A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a very great thing."

Amy Carmichael offered no prizes.  Why should a child receive a prize for what her patient teachers had given her?  "The great reward was to be trusted with harder, more responsible work."  

Nobody ever received a tip.  If nothing else had ever done so, this would have put the Dohnavur Family in a class by itself.  Everybody heard that they would help even those who had no money at all.  People knew they could count on "not being fleeced in private."

Amy hated things cheap and nasty.  No toy, no picture book reached the hands of her children without prior scrutiny.  "Remove silly objects" was one of the watchwords, so anything that might pervert or even perplex was eschewed.

Music was never an accompaniment for conversation.  The children were taught to sing, play, and listen.   They learned the lesson of Eccleasiasticus from the second century B. C., "Hinder not musick.  Pour not out words where there is a musician, and show not forth wisdom out of time."

Scripture and hymn memorization was an important part of the education.  Amy took her cue from Arnold of Rugby:  "It is a great mistake to think they should understand all they learn;  for God has ordered that in youth the memory should act vigorously, independent of the understanding-whereas a man cannot usually recollect a thing unless he understands it.'  On Monday mornings everyone repeated together 1 Corinthians 13, the "Love Chapter," in Tamil and English.  At least one child knew nineteen stanzas of Rutherford's hymn, "The Sands of Time Are Sinking,"  and several whole chapters of the Gospel of John and the book of the Revelation.  The children had opportunity from time to time to teach Hindu children, by the Eastern method of sing-song repetition, what they had learned.  There was power, they found, in "the merest thistledown of song."

The children had their own vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens.  They sold the produce for the going market price to the housekeeper, kept the coppers in their own little clay banks, and once a year these were ceremoniously smashed in the presence of all, the contents counted, and a collective decision made about whom to give it to.

Remembering the long prayer meetings of her childhood, and her devices for passing the time (counting up in the hymnbook, for example, all the things a dying soul is supposed to say at the exact moment of departure), and the "firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally and in conclusion" of those long Irish sermons, Amy arranged to spare her children such pains.  Meetings, she decided, would be short.  "The space of half an hour" sufficed in heaven for "the ultimate act of adoration" - -silence-- which followed the opening of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1).  It would suffice, here, for "the human soul should not be drawn out like a piece of elastic and held so for too long at a stretch."

Raising Homemakers

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Soap Review-Hen N Chicks Soap

I recently received a nice bar of homemade soap from Hen N Chicks Soap for review purposes.  I love homemade soaps and this bar was quite lovely.  I love the rustic look of a nice homemade bar of soap and the Vanilla Mint scent put me in the Christmas spirit.....Yes, it was June, but it did remind me of a Christmas-y scent.

This bar of soap is made from totally good-for-you ingredients including sunflower, coconut, olive and palm oils as well and wintergreen essential oil and vanilla crystals.  I love the way homemade soap makes my skin feel and this soap was no exception.  The oils are very good for your skin and the wintergreen and vanilla scent was very nice.

I have noticed in my own homemade soaps that are darker that the color of the soap tends to leave a little messy residue in the bath.  Not a ring, but brown soapy spots where ever the lather splatters.  Not a problem that isn't easily rinsed away, but it is something to be aware of...especially if you have little guys who like to play in the tub and don't rinse afterward.

Check out more wonderfully handmade soaps from Hen N Chicks at  and tell them Busy Hands Busy Minds sent you over!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homestead Update-June 20, 2011

This morning around our little homestead Jeff and I  both woke up at about 4:15.  He to work at his home business and me to deal with allergy issues which also led to finishing up the laundry from the weekend.  It's just before 6 A.M. on Monday morning and I only have two loads left to wash!!

I just woke up the big boys and can hear Jordan gathering up the trash to load the garbage cans in the back of the truck.  He will haul them down to the road to be picked up by the garbage men later this morning.  The boys have lots of work in the garden this morning.  The garden peas are finished.  The vines are dying in our 90+ temps.  We never got enough to "put up", but have enjoyed them on some salads.  This was a first for us.  Next year or this fall we will plant three times as many in hopes that we will have some to freeze.   The bed that the peas are in is very nicely composted soil and we have some pepper plants that need some attention so the boys will be transplanting 16 pepper plants to that bed this morning in the hopes that they will grow better in the richer soil.

Jordan will also have to build a trellis for a row of winter squash that are taking off.  I first tried growing winter squash last year without success.  This year we have many small squash already hanging from the trellised vines on another row.  There is also another bed of squash that needs to be cultivated and fertilized this morning as well.

With over 75 tomato plants Jordan is staying busy getting them staked or trellised.  He will need to trellis several this morning as well.  I do hope we have a good showing of tomatoes soon.  We have many green tomatoes but have yet to have a red one.  I am looking forward to a tomato sandwich from our own garden.

One type of lettuce has bolted and I think we will leave it to reseed the same bed for the fall.  We have greatly enjoyed having fresh lettuce almost daily and have really appreciated not having to buy lettuce for the past three months!!  Kaelan will gather the rest of the lettuce that has not bolted so we can enjoy salads this week.

There are also blueberries that need to be picked from our mature bushes.  Only one of the bushes has berries that have ripened, but we have already gathered about a gallon from it with much more to come.  Our other mature bush is a different variety and while heavily laden with berries they are not ripe yet.  It seems our young blueberry bushes have developed rust.  Jeff googled to see what do to about it as one has already died.  The recommendation was to cut down all hemlock trees in the area.  We live in the deep south!!  I don't think we have HEMLOCK trees!!  We have pine, oak, hickory and cedar here on our homestead.  Any suggestions about how to take care of our endangered blueberry bushes?

We will also gather basil today and make up a big batch of pesto to freeze in half cup portions.  Does anyone know if you can CAN pesto?  If you can buy jars of it in the stores, surely you can home-can it?

I will also try canning pickles for the first time this year.  We have lots of cucumbers that are growing up a trellis.  Three plants have already given us about 10 good sized cukes and there are 16 others plants that are coming up strong with lots of flowers on them as well.

I'll head to the kitchen soon to make up a large batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast.  With all this work to be done, my crew of helpers will be hungry!

Devin will be coming home today after being away for Suzuki teacher training in Ohio for the last 12 days.  She went up to Columbus, Ohio for training so she could stay with my sister and her family.  My other sister and niece drove up last week and this weekend they were able to do some fun things together as Devin's classes were over on Friday.  Her 23rd birthday was yesterday and this is the first time that I can recall that we haven't been together on her big day.  She was actually born on Father's Day in 1988 and was probably my best Father's Day gift to Jeff ever!!  She's a great young lady and we will all be glad when she finally gets home....We've already been notified that the first leg of her journey has been delayed due to fog, so it will most likely be a long day for her.  Maybe she can get a little sleep on the plane as they wait for the all clear!

On an island tour of Lake Erie...

I also hope to spend some time this week doing school with the children and making up notebooks for the next semester of school for my three oldest students.  Lots of copying to do, hole punching and organizing!  We really need to get back into somewhat of  a routine as soon as possible.  The days are quickly passing by and we have so much to accomplish.  Now, off to the kitchen I go!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Menu Plan for June 20-26

Planning to eat from the garden, pantry and freezer this week.  We have lots of cucumbers and some squash coming in.  Some of the lettuce is still good and some it going to seed.  I am hoping it will reseed the bed and be ready to harvest this fall.  I am going to try to make pickles for the first time this week so will need to purchase a few spices and pickling salt for those and I also will need to buy some tomatoes for our sandwiches and salads and I am buying a big box of apples to make applesauce and apple butter.  Loving adding home-canned goods to my pantry these days!

Breakfast-blueberry muffins, eggs and sausage
Dinner-fried squash, peas, stewed potatoes, cornbread, broccoli salad, homemade ice cream and peach cobbler

Breakfast-baked oatmeal, English muffins
Lunch-beef and bean nachos
Dinner-hummus, flatbread, pasta salad, tomato, cucumber and basil salad, stuffed eggs and yogurt dip

Breakfast-eggs and grits
Lunch-leftovers or popcorn and fruit
Dinner-grilled cheese sandwiches and salads

Breakfast-pancakes and bacon
Lunch-beef and bean tostados
Dinner-French onion soup and turkey salad sandwiches

Breakfast-toast, eggs and grits
Dinner-veggie pizzas, pasta with pesto, salad

Breakfast-biscuits, bacon, eggs, grits
Dinner-grilled burgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, veggie salad

Breakfast-cinnamon rolls
Lunch-at church--we'll be taking cucumber sandwiches and herbed bread
Dinner-leftover burgers and salads

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Okay to Be Late!

As a homeschooling mom of seven children I have had my share of sitting down side by side with each child to work on reading, math, spelling, phonics, handwriting and much more.  Ok, I've done this with 6 of the children...I don't believe in starting book learning in the preschool years, so it will be a little while until the two year old starts.

I remember really pushing my oldest 22 years ago during her kindergarten year.   I was young, had just recently finished my master's degree (in education, no less) and was determined to succeed.  There was stress and there were tears.  We finished kindergarten in one semester and went on to first grade.

As the years went on I learned to relax (relaxing is relevant, isn't it?) a little bit and now we are at the point where our soon-to-be seven year old is not reading.  He is still in the very early decoding stage.  Still writes some letters and numbers backwards and generally writes his name in all caps.  He also has some speech delays.  Although I tell myself it's okay and I know in a couple of years he will most likely be caught up, I do occasionally find myself wondering if it really IS okay.  Those are the times he heads upstairs to the Sunday school class room with other six year olds and I pray the teacher doesn't expect them all to be able to read.  I silently beg the other children not to make fun of his speech delays.  I hope he isn't written off as a dummy.  I cringe inside as my sister sits down to play Slap Jack with him and instead asks him to spell the numbers on the cards.  I smile on the outside, but inside I wonder what she thinks.

I remind myself of what he can do.  He loves to be read to.  He loves to look at books.  He is advanced in his gross motor skills:  rode a bike without training wheels just before turning 4, can shoot a bow and arrow with great aim, climbs trees, cuts down saplings with a hack saw, can hoe the garden and sticks to long jobs like shoveling manure onto a trailer.  He loves to draw and does so every day.  He makes up songs, gives great hugs and has the best smile ever.

So, again, I remind myself that children mature at different stages and I focus on the positives and try to make extra time to work on those areas that need work.   I know that God made this special boy and He is shaping him into the man that He intends him to be.  My job is to work diligently with him, to encourage him to work hard without overworking him and to teach him to love learning.  It's the work that God has given me and I am thrilled to be this guy's mom!

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