First Day of School

Seventeen months after last getting off a school bus, our kids climbed back on one again.  The last time they were in public school, Katherine was in fifth grade and Nathaniel in third.  Now ages 12 and 10, respectively, she’s taking the bus to middle school to start seventh grade, and he’s taking the elementary-school bus to start fifth grade.

Sydney installed a desktop in our kitchen, and yesterday Katherine emailed back and forth with various friends from school, comparing schedules and getting updates from those who have joined her in the world of braces.  Since her school doesn’t dismiss until 4, she got up early this morning to practice piano; she knew she wouldn’t have much energy left after the bus drops her off at home in the afternoon.

Nathaniel, meanwhile, reported that the chickens loved being let out so early (6:05, he proudly announced to me), and he enjoyed a cup of tea with the oatmeal he cooked for himself.  Although he’s been the baby of the household for this past year at home, he now gets to learn how to be responsible as one of the biggest people in his school.  I tried to refrain from calling after him, “Don’t squash the first graders!”


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Farm Play

The kids just spent a week at Choral Camp in Ohio at Sydney’s alma mater, Rosedale.  Outdoor singing sessions under the tent, shaving cream fights, slippery water slides, and beginner solfege training: it’s a really fun combination of music and field day games.  The kids came home tired (Nathaniel slept much of the drive home) and eager to commit to going again next year.  This was Nathaniel’s first year, and Katherine’s fourth.

We also spent an easy evening at the farm on Sunday:

The habit of climbing a cattle gate and enjoying the breeze and the view hasn’t gotten old.  Katherine’s even wearing one of her old Choral Camp t-shirts.

Nathaniel is intent on gathering the small patch of wheat that the combine left in our part of the field, so that he can dry, thresh, sort, and grind his own wheat for bread.  Once he has a project in mind, he can think of nothing else, so we were glad to leave him to it.

Much to our surprise, a cluster of hollyhocks shot up at the back of the equipment shed.  We don’t know who planted them or how many years ago they did so, but it’s a lovely addition.

This big black walnut is our favorite place to rest in camp chairs (yesterday we ate Sydney’s tasty experimental watermelon curry there).

Katherine and Sydney took their binoculars with them as we walked the path Sydney mowed on the back of the property.


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Our New Farm

We bought a farm!  Let the jokes begin.

After a lovely two-week visit to my parents, the kids and I returned to Kentucky, where Sydney and I signed the papers on a 17-acre farm near Harrodsburg.  It is 25 minutes from our house, ten minutes past Shaker Village (one of our favorite hiking spots), and 1.5 miles from the local ice cream shop.  Priorities.

After years of Kentucky clay, Sydney now owns a farm with silty soil, which soaked up the 6 inches of rain that came down the other day and flooded much of the area (!).  It was a good test of the new place, which held up well.

The farm comes with a tiny concrete-block farm-hand house with a nice tool shed, four barns, and lots of fencing.  It is funny to think that what used to be home to cattle is now owned by vegetarians.  It’s surrounded by huge wheat, corn, and soybean fields.  As much as we’d have liked to farm closer to Wilmore, it’s really nice to be in an area where every square inch isn’t being prepped for new housing developments.

Sydney has been hard at work, trying to break ground and transfer his farm operation from the one we’ve rented to our new place.  This is going to be a busy year, but we know that by the end of it things should be much less chaotic–and we should be thoroughly at home on the new place.

Despite having plenty of new things to take care of, Sydney’s carved out play time at the farm, with late-night campfires (Nutella, graham crackers, and marshmallows), new kites (there’s a good breeze there), and a relaxing Sunday afternoon under the large black-walnut tree. 

He is planning to transform roughly three acres of the farm into beds for cover crop and vegetables, and we’re hoping to plant trees throughout much of the rest of it.  For now, one of our favorite activities is to perch atop a four-board fence and look around, marveling at the space and the view.  I hope it’s a long time before we tire of that.


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End of the School Year

Since we didn’t have a clear start to the school year (will they go to school?  will they stay home?  what would either of those look like?), we thought we would mark the end of the school year with some school pictures.

Both kids have spent a lot of time at these desks throughout the year.  Thanks to the art class they’ve taken in town, they’ve also been able to fill their walls with creative work.  Today we closed up the math and language books, they celebrated the end of their Spanish lessons with me (they have grumbled about just how hard it is to learn a new language), and they proudly tucked away their history research papers.  Their desks are now empty and ready for whatever next year brings, but they’re currently keen on free reading, time outside, and a trip to their Iowa grandparents next week (Katherine corrected me: 3 1/2 days and 4 nights!).

They will both be headed back to public school in the fall.  As much as I’m looking forward to seeing what new topics they learn about in school, we all know that there are some things that they’ll miss from their year at home:

sleeping in

hot oatmeal and tea breakfasts

morning math work in a quiet room and at their own pace

doing English projects that are more than just two paragraphs of reading and two sentences of writing

being able to hum or sing quietly as you work

flexible schedules that allow for morning hikes

good lunches

more family time (including kitchen collaborations)

seeing birds and flowers right outside your window


and homework done with a cat on the lap.


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Last spring, Sydney filled our backyard garden with strawberries.  He has since thinned, weeded, mulched, and watered them.  Since he used to pick strawberries commercially, and since he prefers blueberries anyway, this is very much something he does just because I like strawberries.  And this year we had a bumper crop!

We’ve had a couple of big batches just for our use: I’ve made strawberry shortcake twice, Sydney’s made strawberry freezer jam, we’ve both frozen strawberries for smoothies, and everyone’s had strawberries and yogurt for breakfast the last week or two.  We’re taking our second batch to market tomorrow; they were snapped up quickly last week.  They are a lot of work to pick (we’re both feeling it in our backs and back-of-the-leg muscles this week), but they are such a crowd-pleaser.  And I’ll be enjoying Sydney’s jam on my toast for the next year!


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Spring in the Yard

The joke in our house is that Sydney is slowly reclaiming our yard from lawn, one garden square at a time.  Sydney has sown carrots in the holes in the concrete blocks he’s put down as edging (wood, we’ve discovered, rots quickly in Kentucky).  In this new bed, there are beets for Sydney and blackberries for Erin.  Everyone loves the carrots.


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Changes afoot

Neither kid is keen on picture-taking at the moment, but Katherine can be leaned on “for the grandparents’ sake.”  Nathaniel, however, is quite happy to refuse me even then.  Sorry, I tried.

Sydney has one class left to teach this week before the school year wraps up, and then the farmer’s market begins on May 1st.  I am squeezing in one more writing project before my sabbatical ends, as the kids stay in school mode through May.

Katherine, however, is leading the way with new things as we look forward to summer.  She gets braces next week (cue her famous eye-roll), but she also joined the volleyball league in town and is becoming acquainted with the mental game of playing sports as much as she is court positions and serve posture.  After less than a week, she made it clear that she’s not okay with not knowing what she’s doing, and she’s determined to figure it out.  So you’ll find us at the park a couple of times a week, as I chase balls and she applies to volleyball some of the discipline she’s learned from music.  I try to remind her to lighten up, though I’m also glad to see her so interested.  She’s a bit intense . . . to no one’s surprise.  Much to my delight, however, when she’s actually playing with her team, she laughs, forgets her self-consciousness, and generally seems to have a good time.  And that is fun to watch.


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Katherine Turns 12

Katherine likes ceremony, and she thought a picnic on her birthday would make the most of our lovely spring weather.  The redbuds in Kentucky are filling every background with pink and purple, and everything has turned green underfoot.

Rain made her reconsider her plan, but she suggested a really nice alternative: a picnic in the greenhouse, where we could hear the rain all around us but keep our food dry.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon.


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Happy Easter!


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She threw open the screen door, handed me the egg basket, and announced, “Two eggs.  And spiders are floating away off the top of the coop, like in Charlotte’s Web.


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