Saturday, October 31, 2009

Listening In

(in the car. of course.)

A: So....where did the first baby come from?
Me: Hm. That is a very good question...
E: Well, I am pretty sure it came from a gorilla.
Me: Really?! Wow. How did you figure that out?
E: Well, I saw a picture of a really super hairy man once who looked a lot like a gorilla.

(Me, wondering if we've ever really talked about this? Recall mentioning that humans are related to apes, but that was probably while looking at them at the zoo, and it's been a while since we've been to the----)

A: Hm. I am pretty sure the first baby was built by God.

Well, there we have it, the whole discussion from one end of the spectrum to the other.


(in the woods, hiking.)

A: Eliza, I'm taking your kiss and saving it. In my mouth.
E: What? That's where you keep your kisses??
A: Yup. In my mouth.
E: Oh. I have a pouch. It's kind of way down inside and I'm not sure where, but it's there. My love pouch.
A: Yeah, well, sometimes I keep them in my nose. That's where my love pouch is, in my nose.


Then there were the hawks....and the mellow silence of a day in late fall.

(Photo by Anika)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goings On

Thought you all might appreciate the fashion going on around here - and I'm not talking about Halloween. This was Ani's get-up this morning for going to market - pinafore? check. hoodie hangin' by the hood? check. visor? check. Ready to go! It was a windy cold one at the market this morning (I just have to marvel - this farmer's market, for this town of under 30,000 with all the undergrads - operates twice a week through Christmas. Isn't that amazing?), but we loaded up with so much goodness - broccoli and leeks for some wonderful soup we ate tonight, kale for, well, everything (we had a salad tonight with kale, pine nuts, and cranberries), two cooking pumpkins, a bag of Golden Delicious, a box of sweet bell peppers, kohlrabi, beautiful purpley bok choy...I think that was it.

After market, we stopped by the local natural food store to get a few bulk herbs for some afternoon medicine-making. I had read this post a few weeks ago about the Four Thieves Vinegar, and with all the stories Dan brings home about the number of people down in this town from H1N1 or something similar, I am interested in eating well and using what we have to ward off illness. The short version of the story is that during the time of the plague in Europe, there was a rash (no pun intended) of robberies in houses that had been hit with the illness. At first no one bothered with trying to catch the thieves, figuring they would get their due when they fell ill, but after a time it became apparent that they were managing to avoid the plague and continue their crime spree. It then became imperative to catch the men and discover their method of staying healthy. They did capture them and in return for their lives, they divulged their secret combination of herbs, given to them by one of the boys' mothers. I have found several versions of the story and the recipe, but thought it could not hurt to dive in and try this one, made with thyme and lemon balm from our garden (in addition to the lavender, peppermint, hyssop, sage, garlic and apple cider vinegar). It will steep for 6 weeks, so I'll have to let you know how it tastes!
I wish my photos of the evening had turned out - flash too glaring, no flash too blurry, ah well - they were of yarn...ribbon....thread...scissors....cardboard....silver duct know - Halloween preparations were underway. Trick or treating happens tomorrow around here (in order to avoid the drunken revelry that takes over many of the neighborhoods on the actual day - Halloween is BIG at the university), and boy howdy, are we READY! I think I've talked the girls into trading their loot for one large organic, eco-friendly, free-labor and truly yummy chocolate bar of their own (it's ok if you're eye-rolling - Dan gave me the same, but it's worth a try isn't it?). Eliza's on-board - she usually spits out most of what she tries before giving it to Dan to take to school - but Ani might be a harder sell...remember the Map of My Sweet Tooth? Mmmmhmmm...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Plans, Bikes and Vultures

The morning board said something like: unpack and clean rooms; work on costumes; read together...Eliza had a different idea from the moment she woke up. Biking. It took a large cup of coffee to shift my gears while she got things ready.
And we were off. She has only just gotten comfortable riding without me jogging beside her, but this morning she said, you walk with Ani, and I'll be fine riding up ahead. She was more than fine.
There is such joy seeing your child doing something they feel so good about, knowing they are feeling confident about a new skill or some newly-found independence. (I'm talking mostly about Eliza, as Ani took to riding her little bike quickly and with no lack of confidence, but I have mostly photos of Ani, since Eliza left us in the dust!)

We rode all the way down past the community gardens (above, in the background), around the bend near the river, and to the playground. They were so proud! And well rewarded - we saw dozens of vultures in the trees by the river - Eliza called to wish them a good morning and wondered if they were her friend Pickering's family. She also spotted a fawn who ducked into the bushes by the path with its mama, and I watched a flock of titmice (titmouses?) fly from sycamore to sycamore along the river. It was a wonderful way to start our day; I'm so glad she thought of it. We of course got to all the rest in good time, though as I somewhat reluctantly left the house I said to Dan, "whose idea was this child-led learning thing??" It stretches my limits of flexibility some days. I am realizing that it is I who needs some structure and shape to our days, and it can be exhausting to put the effort into that, only to have it disregarded for the more immediate interest. The tangible excitement that is present when they are so happily engaged is not to be missed, though, and tells me when we have made the right choices.
Are they waiting for the bikers to drop??

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road Trip Through Fall

The girls and I said goodbye to Papa early Thursday morning and drove through stunning fall colors north, to visit good friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Friday forecast was for 100 % rain, but it did not dampen spirits one bit.
Who can complain about sweet dogs and dear friends who will satisfy your every dress-up desire?
Greta-girl, truly the sweetest dog ever

The Princesses

And as if that weren't enough, we were able to attend the Re-skilling Festival* held at the local Steiner highschool. A friend of our friend's was giving a goat-milking demonstration and needed "kid wranglers" to keep the babes away from their mothers' udders, and Eliza and Rosalie volunteered! As you can see, it was a tough job...
...but a beautiful place to wrangle goats.

Gabriel and Laurel, much amused by the goat shenanigans

Ani, making friends with Bob

Dandelion, doing an amazing impression of a goat calling for her mother

We also managed to squeeze in a trip downtown to see some of the fairy doors that have popped up around Ann Arbor (unfortunately, I don't have any photos, but you can see what I'm talking about here - it is quite magical!), which triggered a fairy house making frenzy.

We had a marvelous time - these are old friends, like family, or as Eliza put it "fairy god sisters and brothers". Laurel and I even got a few hours to ourselves one afternoon (thanks, Pax!), to take a long walk and ogle all the hip craftiness that downtown Ann Arbor is full of. The trip was nourishing and inspiring, and we came home to a papa who had already scooped the guts out of two pumpkins, preparing for two excited girls to wow him with their jack o' lantern designs...(they're cool - I'll have to post photos later). He had also made dinner for us - does this man speak my language or what?
The last time I drove this distance (about 5 1/2 hours) by myself (with the girls, of course) was when we moved here to Ohio. It felt good to accomplish this - I am not much of a driver, but aside from a couple of detours and an absurd number of large farm equipment traveling on the smaller roads, it was smooth sailing and a beautiful drive through Amish farm country. The girls were excellent travelers, thanks in large part to the audio version of Charlotte's Web, which was perfect for this time of year, for the drive we had - and a "secret weapon" I kept for the grueling last hour and a half from Columbus...two Pez dispensers. They had never seen them before and thought they were the coolest thing ever - the two critters on top (I have no idea who they are, nor do the girls - they look like the saber tooth version of a squirrel and maybe a dog? a lion?) talked a blue streak the whole way home, and I believe they were even married by the time we pulled into our driveway. Quite the successful road trip, I'd say.

*This is one of the ways Ann Arbor seems to be addressing the Transition Town movement, which is concerned with the issues of climate change and peak oil. I love knowing that there is a term - "re-skilling" - for something I am so interested in. The workshops, which we were not able to attend due to time and not having the schedule ahead of time, included topics such as small-scale beekeeping, making your own herbal soaps, goat milking, paper making, cold-frame building - just to mention a very few! I know very little about Transition Towns, but have heard enough to know that there is action here in town along these lines, which I am interested in knowing more about. I did pick up a fun-looking book while there: Food Security for the Faint of Heart by Robin Wheeler. Hopefully more on all this later...

Thursday, October 22, 2009


There are those weeks or months when everything seems to come around to the same idea or the same story...we are having one of those times, and it's not completely by accident, but it is being noticed by the wee ones and there is something so gratifying about that...resonance.

We've been reading harvest stories, of course, and I came across a wonderful Day of the Dead book a couple of weeks ago which lead to all sorts of discussion about death and celebration and life. I taught the girls a song that somehow I learned, though I can't remember when; it was whirling in my mind for a few days and I managed to find it on the internet (of course):

Hoof and Horn, Hoof and Horn
All that dies shall be reborn
Corn and Grain, Corn and Grain
All that falls shall rise again

The girls love everything about this song, which is sort of a chant and is easy to fall into and just keep going as you walk, or draw, or drive...we've sung this a lot at this point! (here is a clip, if you are the singing type and want a good harvest song - I wish I could play Eliza singing it for you; she has such a wonderful singing voice) The words have also penetrated their thoughts and they find echoes of the idea of rebirth in so many other places.

We recently read a sweet book called "Ears and the Secret Song", about a mouse and his life's cycle with the other mice in his family and field, and there again was this idea of death and rebirth. The secret song became like a little sister to Hoof and Horn, and the girls sing this one all day, out loud, together, alone, under their breath:

I am small and brown, in the earth I lie;
I spring tall and golden, waving at the sky.

I just sat down to try and write the notation of how we sing this out for you and take a picture, but I am tired enough that I can't quite figure out the key signature!!!!! Yowza. Where's Dan when ya need him? (ok, for the geeks among us, here it is in simple notation:
I am small and brown, in the earth I lie
C Eflat D Bflat C (repeat)
I spring tall and gol--den, wav-ing at the sky
G G G F G--F, Eflat C C Bflat C

Um, yeah. I should go to bed. But wait! There's more! We started moon journaling this moon cycle (maybe more on that later), and, starting with a new moon, we were talking about why we can't see the moon when it's new. Eliza thought about it, and though we've talked about the moon a lot and she could give a fairly accurate explanation of the scientific why, she knew I was fishing for more - she said the old full moon had died and a "new" moon was being born. Anika got an excited twinkle in her eye and started in, "Hoof and horn, hoof and horn, all that die shall be reborn..."

It's a little bit of magic, these echoes...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cinnamon Spice Leaf Garland

I need to give credit to my sister-in-law for the way my kitchen smells right now...soooo good. She picked up the book Glues, Brews and Goos, after reading this post about the window paint we made, and mentioned that they were going to try this pumpkin spice dough for making some kind of garland with, and that sounded so good, we had to try it.
The ingredients to make this dough - which is NOT edible! - are:
3/4 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
5 TBS white glue
3/4 cup water
Mix it all together and chill for a few hours. Sprinkle your work area with more cinnamon, and roll out the dough.
It smelled so nice while we were working the chilled dough.
And while we were rolling it out and cutting out our leaf shapes.
And while they were drying. We let ours dry for almost a week; they were pretty small.
Today we strung them on embroidery floss (we had made holes in them with the end of a chopstick) and had a go at making garlands. They still smell good.

These were the best shots I could get of the final product - and forget about getting the girls to stand still long enough for a photo of the ones they chose to hang as pendants around their necks! We can't get enough of the autumn around here...the cinnamon, the leaves, the festive something in the air...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20

We're working on putting Plot 55 (our plot in the nearby community garden) to rest for the winter. The girls helped me this morning, pulling out the tomatoes, digging up some plants to bring home for the winter,
harvesting the last of the carrots!
They were so delighted in the work they did today, and it made me wish we'd been more on top of things this summer, to reap the harvest I had planned. No more working someone else's garden all May and then leaving for August! That does not make for a very successful garden. All Eliza could talk about was eating the food we had grown - not having to pay money to someone else for it. It was a big deal!

I harvested our thyme, and found a nice little spot to hang it to dry. We'll use it for teas and cough medicine during cold season.
This afternoon we kidnapped Dan from school and took him to one of the ridges to hike...
...and draw...

...and climb...

The girls and I are going out of town for a few days and this was a nice way to get a little extra time in with Papa before it's good for him to see the daylight every once in a while. We picked a good day to do it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Walk, Version 2

We had a really good weekend, our family did, beginning with dinner on Friday with new friends and ending with a house concert in the middle of the woods on Sunday night. In between, the girls and I got out for a walk along the bike-path, which has been balked at lately, but with the good weather and good spirits on our side, we succeeded in taking our walk. There were the ubiquitous Halloween decorations to spook us...
...and we stopped by our favorite sitting tree (I am collecting these "sweet" moments like precious jewels to keep me hopeful during the screechy whiney moments, of which there have been so many it the cold? Maybe it's making us all uncomfortable in our skins...).
Just before we get on the path, there is a meadow on a hill, and it was covered in these gigantic beauties:
(I promise, it was not one of us who took this chomp, though the girls were pretty insistent that it was a human bite...I gotta say, it would have been one ginormous chipmunk...)
Aren't they great fodder for a fairy village? There was tree climbing - still not quite to the path...
...and here, at our destination, were the railroad tracks...
...and the woolly bears (you've got to read this if you have a fondness for this little beasts).
A couple of weeks ago, I set us out on a seed collecting hike, during which I enthusiastically stuffed tiny representatives of dozens of plants into small collecting bags, in hopes of sorting, describing, drawing, know, devouring the wonders of the seeds once we got home. The girls were much more interested that day in twirling in the wind, and the seeds, my sweet little seeds, still sit in their bags, in a box, waiting...and on this walk, all of a sudden, the girls spotted this plant (not sure what it is...) and its seeds just waiting for someone to notice, and they went on and on about how and who was going to disperse this plants' seeds...
...and we figured out it could be us...
Eliza discovered the tiny fairy goblet at the end of the sycamore leaf stems (in fact, I believe she exclaimed, "Hey, I know how they came up with the idea for goblets!")...
...and gathered this beauty, as large as her head...
It was gorgeous, we were happy, and I've tucked it all - the sun, the leaves, the giggles, the sweetness, the small hands, the wild hair, the woolly bears, the stones and the bright blue sky - into a pocket for me to find some dark and wintry day.

PS - Ah! I almost forgot a very significant part of our walk - we were followed home by a large German Shepherd! Yup, and he was so nice and gentle with the girls, stopping to wait for them if they tripped or coming to circle 'round if we got too spread out. Ani has been knocked over by a couple big dogs and has a healthy wariness, but this guy won her over. Sigh. I tried a very stern "No!" and "Go home!" and "Sit!" to absolutely no avail, so shut him on our tiny back porch when we got home, did some sleuthing by phone (thank goodness the vet's office was open on a Sunday!) and we got him in our car, thanks to the help of our neighbor, and drove him home. A phone call from his owner confirmed that he was waiting for them when they returned. His name was Tucker.