Thursday, October 31, 2013

Crafty Days

The weather in October really starts to encourage us to plan activities indoors. So we got crafty. Some of these were as simple as drawing owl faces on all the chestnuts April collects or gluing tissue paper to jack-o-lantern silhouettes. Others were a bit more of an undertaking. The turkey's required the leaves to be dipped in wax first and I pre-cut the features then April taped and glued the birds together.

The snowglobe was a fun family craft. We all gathered around the table a took turns adding parts to the jar. Mommy added the water and glycerin, April added the sparkles and Daddy glued the witch to the lid. It has been a big hit around here so of course we will be making one for Christmas as well.

The mummy hand puppet and the pinecone spider were quick crafts with lasting fun. The mummy puppet is simply strips of cheese cloth and googly eyes glued to a paper bag. The pinecone spiders were another craft inspired by excess "treasures" brought home by April. We just wrapped black pipe-cleaners around some pinecones and glued on some eyes. A couple "spiders" are hanging by our front door to frighten visitors and the baby one (my personal favorite) is perched on our mantle.

April found so much joy in creating these simple crafts and I loved making them with her. I always smile when I see these new treasures carefully displayed around our house. I've been flipping through Martha Stewart magazines and keeping an eye on Pinterest for fun crafts to do as the Christmas season approaches. All this planning might be just as much fun as actually building our crafts (well, not really but it's close).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pumpkins in the Patch

To lift our spirits after the loss of our birds, April and I headed to the local pumpkin patch in search of three perfect pumpkins. I'm telling you, no one can life my spirits like this little girl when she is whole-heartedly excited about something. Her smiles and giggles, not to mention her boundless energy, are infectious.

In true pumpkin patch fashion we donned our rain boots and best pumpkin attire. For April this included her new mama-made hat. I must be honest that this hat didn't turn out as I had hoped. I chose the larger size since April has a large head but it still ended up being to short. Unfortunately, I know exactly why. I simply didn't get enough yarn, the darn ball I got at a local shop was just a few feet too small. Live and learn I guess. It will take us through the fall and I will make her another hat for the winter.

I left all the pumpkin choices to April. She did need a little reminding to check the entire pumpkin for soft spots but in the end she chose three beautiful, round pumpkins. She was so proud and I left the patch feeling so much more relaxed and joyous. We topped off our farm visit with a few delicious local apples from the shop. It was sunny, it was fun, it was really quite perfect. Now, if only the pumpkin carving could be so relaxing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Post about Loss

I type this post with a lot of sadness and a bit of guilt. The other night we lost two of our three Rhode Island Red chicks to raccoons. It was the first time we had lost any birds and losing two in one night was so crushing. Especially since I opened my back door to go out to check on the birds and the raccoons had laid out one of the birds on my back step.

At first we couldn't find the other bird and I was desperately hoping she was simply scared and had flown off to hide. I looked high and low several times during the day but could not find her. It wasn't until Jon returned home from work that we found her, hidden away but still a victim of the same raccoons. It was a sad day in the yard. The remaining red was sadly hovering over the body of it's deceased friend and my cat sat nearby meowing all morning long. She didn't even leave the yard today. All the chickens, even the nasty Wyandottes, were solemn and skiddish.

The guilt comes in when the reason for this loss is explained. That night, the night they died, we had not locked them into their coops. The Wyandottes prefer to roost in the coop and we've never seen them leave the coop before morning. However, we knew for a fact that from time to time if we didn't shoo them in, the reds would roost outside. We knew that the best way to keep them safe was to lock them in their coops at night. We had forgotten to lock them one night in the summer and they all were well and good. And then it happened again and again they were fine. Sadly, we were forgetting more than remembering. I'm so sad that our laziness cost us these birds. We are now renewed in our resolve to be the best stewards possible to these creatures. We've locked them in at dusk and done several checks during the night to make sure the coops are safe and uncompromised.

I'm not sure yet how this loss will affect April. She was very young when our pet guinea pig died and since then hasn't been faced with much loss. I'm not sure she has noticed that our flock is less two birds. At her age, I'm not ready to tell her that they were killed just to bring it to her awareness. However, should she ask where the other red chicks are, I will carefully explain that they are gone and answer her questions as truthfully as I can. Loss is going to be a part of her life on our little homestead. It's going to be a part of the lives of us all. It's important to acknowledge it and respect it but life is brief and cyclical so it is also important to continue on. We can learn from our mistakes, we can keep the memories but not dwell. This loss has made us more vigilant but I don't think it will make us fearful. I'm sorry little birds that your life ended this way but we won't forget our mistakes and we promise to protect your companions as best we can.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Enchanted Halloween


Another October means another Halloween adventure at Heritage Acres. This year we were joined by friends which made the experience all the more fun. It was so nice to see April understand and enjoy the holiday. Since she is still too young for trick-or-treating, this was a big deal, essentially the highlight of Halloween for 2013.

The biggest hits with the kiddos were definitely the train ride (April is still talking about the spooky tunnel) and the singing pumpkins. The singing pumpkins were a new addition; projected light on pumpkins that sang and "danced" to Michael Jackson's Thriller. April was doing a little dance to the music while she watched. It was hard to tear them away. April also enjoyed the Hall of Mirrors and it's special surprise.

Thankfully we received a minimum of candy this year and once divided between family members she only had one piece of candy the whole day. Halloween is about so much more than candy so we like to minimize that aspect. We are focused on the magic and the fun of the holiday. It should be about dressing up, carving pumpkins and maybe playing a trick or two. This event really helped us bring back those important parts of Halloween.

Honestly, Enchanted Halloween never disappoints. The artwork (from pumpkins to lanterns) is always amazing and the special touches for the children make it so memorable. If you are in the area, it is so worth a visit. It's running for another 3 days next weekend and I'm fighting the urge to buy tickets for next weekend too (April asking to please go back to Halloween Town isn't making it any easier).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Goodnight Garden

It's finally that time of year when we tuck the garden in for a long winters nap. I was very ready to say goodnight this year. My winter garden never did materialize so it simply became a matter of removing the plants that will not over winter and covering the garden.

Thanks to my brilliant husband, we worked out a way to reduce the morning glory crawling up our garlic in the spring. He bought a large roll of garden fabric, cut a pop can in half and used the sharpened edge to cut holes big enough for our garlic. Although it seems we have more holes than we need for garlic. I think I might use some of the left over space for shallots and leeks. I was planning on planting some green onions but it would appear that the onions in the window box that I planted last fall have continued to grow so I will simply help those ones along.

We've now brought in all the squash from the garden and we will give it a while to cure. We are still working through all the delicata squash and pie pumpkins we picked last month. I'm hoping if we cure our fairy squash and butternut well, we can get them to last until at least December. We are also bringing in the few cabbage that we managed to get this year. They are very small heads and were the victims of many slug attacks. I will use what I can for stir fries and if there is a head left over, attempt another batch of sauerkraut.

In terms of our perennials and our over winter plants; herbs have been moved into the green house, raspberries cut back and the chives and rhubarb will be cut back this week. We are over wintering kale, sprouting broccoli, brussels sprouts and hopefully our celery. The kale and broccoli can tolerate our winters without cover but I will definitely be covering up the celery and brussels sprouts this week. Those under cover may be ready for eating before winter truly hits, if we have some more sunny days, but at this point they are not quite ready for harvest.

The rest of the garden has been covered with plastic or cardboard. The leaves are being raked and distributed between the chicken run (for bug food) and a couple more bags of leaf rot. The trees will be pruned once they are bare and the covers will be on the remaining plants within a few days. Garden, sleep well. We will see you when the days grow long again and the spring is upon us.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall in the Home

Fall is my favorite season. The sun still shines, the colors are stunning, the air is crisp and cool and the garden still delivers a few goodies. I can tell that April is loving this season as well. Almost every walk is a "treasure hunt" for fallen seeds and nuts, special leaves, mushrooms, snails and slugs. We are also buzzing with preparations for all the holidays that will be upon us in the coming months.

This year was our first decorating with waxed leaves. I'm not sure I got the process quite right but I used beeswax to coat the leaves and keep them from drying out. We've used the leaves in several ways. A fall leaf mobile, in April's touch tray, her season shelf and in these turkey crafts. We've also brought in many acorns, chestnuts, pinecones and squashes.

Of course fall in our home means many squash meals (tonight we will be having pumpkin soup), cups of herbal tea, woolen knits, nights in front of the fire and lots of talk of pumpkins. April can hardly contain her excitement over pumpkins. Where they come from, how we use them, Halloween pumpkins, mini pumpkins, big pumpkins, it all is chattered about day after day. We grew pie pumpkins in our garden this year so we are enjoying pumpkin goodies (which I honestly think I enjoy more than April). I'm saving one pumpkin from our garden for April's use this Halloween.

I love the rhythm we have in our home. The shift that we can feel as the seasons change. Every solstice or equinox I look forward to observing the changes it brings with my child and bringing the changing seasons in to our home as well. It grounds us, it encourages flow in our lives, it teaches us to welcome change as life is cyclical and change is constant. We are embracing fall, inside and out.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving Thanks

Traditions are very important to us. They are part of our rhythm, our family culture and really our souls. As we are still a young family, our traditions are still evolving. Taking a little bit from Jon's past, a little bit from mine and adding a lot of our own values, we are building traditions that will carry our family through the years.

Though April is still very young, I wanted to remind her that Thanksgiving isn't all about the meal. It's about being thankful in our hearts and minds and it's about those we share our meal with. So about a week before Thanksgiving I brought in a bare branch and called it our gratitude tree. Every day April and I sat at our table and we talked about all the things that make us happy and that we are so glad we have in our life. We talked about being thankful and telling the people we love that we appreciate them. April liked showing her tree to people who came by and telling them about it. We also made sure to read out what we had written on the leaves to remind ourselves about the spirit of the holiday.

We took our gratitude tree with us to our family Thanksgiving dinner and shared with them what it represented. We sat down to a wonderful meal with thoughts of gratitude and love in our heads. This tradition may evolve over the years but it's one worth keeping.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Rewards

After much deliberation we decided to pull some honey from our main hive this year. We took a medium box to be sure the hive had more than enough honey for the winter. I don't mind feeding the bees but I think it is better for the health of the hive to have honey for the winter.

The weather forecast for the weekend was sunny so we decided that if we were going to take a box of honey it should be this weekend. It was our last chance. So on Friday the bee escape was installed and worked fabulously well. Saturday the bees were out of the box so we were able to bring the frames inside to warm up overnight. I love the way it smells. We sat the box on top of our dryer and the whole laundry room had a sweet beeswax smell.

This was certainly an experiment for us. Neither of us have ever extracted honey and the only extractions we've seen were on YouTube so we were just trying to figure out just what worked for use. Turns out I like using the uncapping fork but Jon likes the uncapping knife. It also took a couple of spins to realize we had installed the frames backwards in the extractor. Once we found our groove the honey started flowing.

We were surprised by how much honey came from that one medium box. In the end we got about 16lbs of honey which will be more than enough to get us through the winter. We have a dark amber honey that seems to have a bit of an herbal taste to it. I think the bees loved my lavender, chive, mint and oregano more than I thought. It was just such an amazing process. All the work these bees did to bring in the nectar, cure it and cap it. Such a gift. Thank you little bees, we won't waste a single drop.