Backyard Camping

Yesterday I surprised Katherine and Nathaniel by pulling out a tent and sleeping bags and announcing that dinner, bedtime reading, and sleep would be outside.  You don’t get much better than this in Kentucky: 60 degrees for the nighttime low, little humidity and no rain, and nearly bug-free.

The kids played games in the yard while I took over Katherine’s hammock and stole some reading time under Sydney’s fruit trees.  Dessert on the front porch consisted of Nutella on graham crackers, with a handful of marshmallows.  It was a hit!  When I was searching for Nutella in the grocery store, they were out of every size except a big jar . . .

I fully expected the kids to make a dash for the house some time in the night, but they stayed outside all night and said they had had a great time.  It probably helps that they were only a few steps away from the chicken coop, so they knew they had company out there.

Erin

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Real Summer

Our summer is going all too quickly.  The first barrage of work emails has arrived, reminding us that our fall teaching, and the kids’ fall schooling, will be quite a challenge.

This seems like a straightforward math problem: to teach the same number of students, but with more physical distance requirements and with additional support for students to guide them through any and all shifts to online learning, we need more instructors and either more classrooms or a longer school day (or both), more cleaning, as well as perhaps more technological investment.  As in, each student’s learning just got a whole lot more expensive, and that expense can manifest in a variety of ways.

Every educational system I consult is clear that we’ll make the distancing and learning happen; if I drill down into their planning, though, they leave it up to the school/program/instructor to make it happen with the usual resources–or fewer ones.  I’m not into magical thinking or making promises we can’t keep, so I’m still working the math problem . . .

At the moment, that pot is simmering in the background as more local concerns crowd our field of vision.  Sydney has revived our backyard garden bed after it got lost under a pile of weeds, and it’s now half filled with strawberries.  The bushy things just to the right of the white row cover are Sydney’s beloved fava beans, which we recently made into a tasty spread alongside flatbread.  The flowers in the front yard also just keep coming.

I also finally got the chicken coop painted, and the chickens are busy enjoying it and the lengthy run extension Sydney taught the kids how to build out of PVC pipe and netting (not pictured).  These are some spoiled chickens!

The kids have been demonstrating some interesting play patterns this summer.  For the first time, I let go of a clear sense of schedule and left them to find their own diversions outside our meal times and farm or yard work.  They settled in for a month of Legos in the basement and rereading old favorites (I think Katherine first read these Nancy Drew books five years ago!), but now, after I feared the loop would never end, the kids are getting more adventurous again.

They’ve also helped considerably with cooking this summer.  They made samosas at Nathaniel’s instigation, and this is a half-gallon jar containing cornmeal that Nathaniel and I made from Sydney’s dried corn and our new grain mill.  Nathaniel and I were both panting by the time we finished, but we were also very proud of our accomplishment!

Erin

 

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Kids trade school for online lessons, and then for summer play

Katherine and Nathaniel currently share their parents’ distaste for computers (particularly video) and for car rides.  We like both our education and our socializing in person and on foot.  So our biggest struggle with staying at home these past few months has been with the substitutes that are being offered for school and for socializing.  When I told Katherine there was a drive-through celebration for fifth-grade graduates this week, she looked appalled at the thought that we might go; neither kid can be convinced to Zoom with family members.

So, what have they been doing?  Well, some schooling, though their teachers pulled back pretty quickly after initial lessons proved difficult to manage online.  As Sydney and I hunkered down for the final grading push this week, the kids knew they were on their own, so they played with the chicks (peekaboo in the spinach in the greenhouse), dug out all the Legos, helped on the farm (Sydney’s first radishes have arrived), and organized their books.

Nathaniel, only ever having known life with Katherine, may not yet realize that it’s not normal to have color-sorted Legos and alphabetized and labeled books, but she set the tone before he arrived on the scene.  Yes, we know bookcases are usually used vertically, but since those bookcases are ceiling-height, we aren’t setting them up unless Sydney secures them to the wall studs, in case they come crashing down!

Erin

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Spring Hiking

Since this is the first May I can remember when temperatures are not already in the nineties, we’ve been getting out for a lot more hiking than we manage most springs.  Some parks are closed because of crowding, but we’ve enjoyed several hikes at Camp Nelson, the recently expanded trails at Tom Dorman, and today we wound our way through Veterans Park in Lexington.  Erin

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Chicks

Exactly one month ago, I collected from our post office a small box that emitted soft, but incessant, cheeping sounds.  The box contained 6 day-old chicks, whom we kept in the basement until they grew adventurous and could be moved to the outside coop.  We then, of course, promptly endured some of the coldest Kentucky spring nights on record.

Thankfully, Chickpea, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Paprika, Poblano, and Pepper are all alive and well, and served as lovely distraction for us over the past month.  Knowing that they would only be fluff balls for a few days, we took pictures incessantly (probably more than we did when our children were newborns . . .), and enjoyed playing with them in the greenhouse.  Whenever we could escape screen time, you’d probably find us in something like the posture of the last picture, just watching them discover the world.

Erin

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Home Projects

Surprising no one, Sydney has been ambitious in his yard projects.  A very wet couple of weeks has put work at the farm on hold, so he has built a large new bed in the front yard, created a rock path (suddenly we all have arm muscles after our winter sloth), and is hard at work on a chicken coop.

Although the kids remain distinctly unimpressed by our computer work, they have come up with projects of their own around the yard, including lots of jump roping.  The school jump rope team, of which they were both members, had several spring performances scheduled–and then canceled–so the kids are making do with our sidewalk and driveway.

Erin

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Blooming Kentucky

It is currently 77 degrees in Kentucky . . . at 7pm, at the end of March.  Although I think normal temperatures will resume, this heat is a reminder of the hot summer to come.  But it’s also a signal for plants and animals to get on with growing and blooming.  Here are a few pictures from our yard.

Redbud Trees:

Our new English Hornbeams:

The very first flower on our magnolia tree:

Fig trees:

Peach and plum trees:

Our resident mourning dove, who is not thrilled about our being home to watch her nest:Erin

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We’re here.

Well, with the kids out of school for the foreseeable future and Sydney and Erin juggling teaching from home (students were sent home, and faculty are not allowed back on campus for the next several weeks), we’re spending a lot of time at our house.  And the cats are thrilled.

We are fortunate to have built-in socialization with a four-person family (in terms of getting work done, far more socialization than we need . . .), two cats, a big yard and a farm to work, and six chicks arriving in mid-April for the chicken coop Sydney is building right now.

Best,

Erin

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Nathaniel in the morning

“Not eating anything from the sea really would be hard.  We eat salt, and that comes from the sea.”

First thing out of his mouth, just after 6 in the morning.  I’m glad someone’s awake!

Erin

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Penners in the Kitchen

Sydney suggested we each pick a different kind of hummus to make over the weekend.  That started up a discussion in our house!  After much sorting and debating, we made a list of our top 6 and decided to break things up into two rounds.  And then we made our first three:

1) lemon-and-coriander hummus

2) olive hummus

3) apricot-and-chili hummus

I made olive flatbread to go with them.  As you can see, everyone’s hard at work!

Yes, they were all successful.  And yes, they made for some great lunches this week.

Erin

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