{this moment} - Just Breakfast

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Homeschooling today - Field trips

This has been the week of field trips.  First was a birthday party for a dear friend who just turned 8.  My friend planned a whole visit to the land of Middle Earth to celebrate and Logan decided he needed to dress the part.  (He and Cyan created this costume all by themselves.)

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“Bwalin - At your service.”

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“Oh, my precious, my precious!” 

He spent the day going through the caves of the Dwarven King, fighting Smaug the Dragon, and winning gold coins.  All with the help of their trusty wizard friends. 

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Then the next field trip was to the skating rink.  At first Luke wasn’t sure what was going on.  But soon he was dead set on being on the skate floor the entire time and a full on melt down ensued if he had to leave for any reason.  Even the speed races. 

At one point he stole someone else's skate walker (above) and headed out to the floor to join the 4 & 5yr olds for their race (he is 26 months).  We didn’t even notice until he was at the starting line!  The attendant gave him a coupon for a free small soda because he was so determined and cute.  His favorite thing to do was to stand in the middle of the floor and dance on his skates.

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After that we spent two days at home working on our chicken coop (more on that later) so we spent those days taking short ‘field trips’ to the shed to say hi to the chickies in their new home.

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The chicks have even gotten field trips (into the yard) and playdates (with the neighbors chicks) lately. 

Yesterday we spent our time downtown at the children’s museum and the art museum.  Eric Carle is being featured and so it was kind of like a reunion of Luke’s birthday party themes.  Winking smile

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The museum had set up a huge magnet wall with Eric Carle prints so the kids could move it around and make their own pieces of art.  We spent the most time at this space and then reading the Eric Carle books they had on display.

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We set off down the street to the Tacoma Children’s Museum after that and spent the rest of the early afternoon experimenting with all kinds of fun discoveries there.

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“Cheese!”

This has been a fun and tiring week.  The weather has been SO lovely that we have spent most of our time outside, soaking up the sun. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful, educational week!

The making of a beautiful backyard homestead

It takes years.  Seriously.  To create a backyard homestead.  Just one step at a time with lots of patience and ingenuity thrown in for good measure. 

When we bought this house it had a big yard, with lots of landscaping and almost no ‘useable’ space.  Plastic covered the ground.  Under the dirt, between the bushes and trees, around the beds.  It was all covered in plastic. We removed as much as we could, and also removed completely unusable plants like ivy, bushes that were overgrown and dying, and tons of grass. 

In March 2010 - I drew up pictures of what I wanted my future garden to look like.  Although it looked NOTHING like my yard of the house that I had just bought.  I wasn’t sure I would ever get to a place where I would have the dream I wanted.  But I now realize that it just took work and a lot of patience.

Before:

Design:

I knew it would be work, but over the years I have seen a lot of that dream realized and today I can say that I am almost there.

After (March 2013): 

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Here is the other side of the garden that has also been transformed from somewhere ugly into a beautiful and useable space.

Before:

Design:

After:

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This year we have taken it to a whole new level.  My 16 year old is able to help and he has gotten very good at it!  More hands make lighter work.  We have done a lot this year so far, and I have more plans that I am ready to put into place. 

But first, I was compelled to draw them out. 

This is my reality right now.  I’ll consider it my ‘before’ (April 2013):

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This is my design:

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I haven’t gotten a whole lot more sophisticated with my design materials.  I still enjoy using my own hands and colored pencils to map out the details of what I want to do.  But already this is so much better than it was just a few months ago that I feel as though it will not be long before this dream, too, is realized. 

Notice a few added details.  The garden bed beneath which will be the home for the lavender plants from the front of the house, which I am slowly replacing with blueberry bushes.  The clothesline with inspiration that came from Homestead Revival’s own HOA friendly clothesline design.  The chicken run, which will have a nice door and fence surround that leads up to the 8 ft fence behind it to keep my girls safe from the neighbors new puppy.  All of these things don’t exist yet.  But I no longer have any doubt that they will.  And I am enjoying dreaming of a day where there will be an ‘after’ for this section too.  Because it won’t be long.

Happy Homesteading!

{this moment} - Giraffe goes where?

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

My sweet old cat passed away…

My cat Taio passed away this last weekend.  I found him laying in the middle of the neighbors field barely able to walk.  It wasn’t long before he left us, but not before he allowed each of us to lay with him, cry with him, and say goodbye.  Even in death, this cat was kind and sweet and I will miss him terribly.

I found him when exercising horses with a friend in 1997.  I wasn’t even really a grown-up yet.  He and his 5 brothers and sisters were on the side of the road huddled around their mother, who had been hit by a car. I took him home and my friend found homes for the rest.

He has been such a wonderful cat. He didn’t meow and he was the most even tempered cat I have EVER met. I had never even seen him hiss unless hurt, not even in the end. He was a chubby ball of love and definitely a wonderful member of the family.

I had him before 3 of my kids.

I had him before my marriage began. 

And yet, he was my husband’s cat at heart.  His favorite napping place was on Don’s lap or behind Don on the couch crushing my couch cushion closest to the window he loved to look out of.

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When he was a kitten, Alex was just 1 year old.  I had to keep his cat food and litter box in the bathroom because that was a door I could keep closed at all times.  In doing this we started a trend that lasted until the day he died…. every time we went pee, he had to be fed.  lol!  It was silly, I know, but being escorted to his food became his ‘thing’ and he couldn’t really eat unless someone had walked him there.  It was tradition. 

He was a huge fan of ‘people flavored water’. 

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He taught all the cats this love and now we have three younger cats that will climb into the shower with us, or drink from the bathtub while we are sitting in it.

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He had the biggest yellow eyes I have ever seen. 

He was even loved by all our neighbors.  When he was a young cat, about 5 I would guess, the neighbor got a German Shepherd puppy named Jessie.  She LOVED Taio.  At first he was a toy.  She would rush him and he would just put his ears back and stare at her like “What??”  She didn’t know what to do considering he wouldn’t run from her, so she claimed him.  She would corral him onto the sidewalk when he was outside with her and lick him until he was soaking wet.  He stood for it all.  He just wanted to be friends with everyone.

During our most recent move our neighbors nick-named him ‘fat cat’ because he was a whopping 22lbs and it was easy for their grandkids to say.  Each time they came over he would saunter up to them and let them pet and touch his ears and tail. 

He slowly lost weight this last few months and when he died he couldn’t have been more than 15lbs.  It was strange to hold him in those last moments and remember when he weighed nearly as much as our toddler just months ago.

He was the first of many pets. 

He slept at the foot of our bed for 15 years.

We buried him under the cherry tree in the backyard.  I planted tulips and white bluebells over his grave.  They look sad this year.  Bulbs don't do well transplanted while blooming.  But in a way it seems fitting.  Every time I see the spot I am sobered by the reality that my friend is gone… but next year they will come up and they will remind us of this amazing life we were privileged to be a part of and it will be a little happier, for the love of a good pet lingers long after the pain of loosing them.

He was the most tender, sweetest and kindest of our cats by far.  Always a friend, even to dogs, chickens, and toddlers, this beloved member of the family will be terribly missed.  I want to remember him fat and happy, rolling around the yard in the summer sunshine like this:

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I hope you find summer sun where you are my sweet friend!  We loved you so very much!

Some cuteness for a friend

My friend Laura is having a baby.  She has waited a long, long time.  Her little boy may be one of the luckiest kids ever to be born with two amazing parents I have known since forever.  Her baby shower invitation showed up last week and it had a giraffe on it.  I have seen the nursery and it also sports a giraffe here and there.  So I knew what I had to do…  Make something giraffey fun.  In that spirit, this blanket was born.

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When you have a toddler, as I do, it is very easy to not craft for years in a stretch.  And every time you DO craft, it is easy to see why it has been years since you had out your machines and good sewing scissors. 

But the struggle was worth it.  I LOVE this blanket! 

100% cotton, inside and out, with quilter’s cotton applique and sewed on the outside, it will be the perfect thing for their new baby to lay on anywhere they want.  And it’s already been washed a couple of times to bring out the quilting, so no worries about it being damaged in the wash! 

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For the quilting (which I did before the appliques) I used this tutorial.  It was easy, but time intensive, and even with this smaller sized quilt, it is VERY important that you PIN PIN PIN!

This cute mama and baby giraffe were Google searches idea of ‘cartoon giraffe outline’.  Then I printed one at ‘full page’ and the other at ‘5X7’ and used them as my template for the appliques. 

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I was able to give it to her yesterday at her shower, so now I can show it to the world.  It’s the only sewing I have done in a really long time, but I am so glad I got to pull out my stuff and gift my friend such a unique gift.  Celebrating babies is such fun!

A walk through my garden - Thursday, 4/11/13

Welcome to the garden.  It’s a beautiful place that is just getting more and more lovely as the season goes on. 

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We just built the first half of this grape arbor a couple weekends ago.  It was warm Easter weekend, but since then it has been dumping rain nearly every day.  So it stays half finished… which is fine for now.  The grapes are only 10 inches tall.  We also have a rouge Clematis that has decided to come back to life after dying year before last.  No, not last year.  2011.  Odd huh?  I hope it will bring pretty flowers to the front of the grape arbor.

At the top of the garden is my mini orchard.

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This is the spot where I planted trees on the wrong root stock and had to replace them.  It was sad, but honestly, if it works out, I will be very grateful not to have to babysit these trees like I did the others.

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I also added pears!  All of them are on M11 root stock, which is supposed to be 110% of standard size.  So these babies should have no issue growing here and should produce as early as I let them. 

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These are some blossoms on the pear tree right now.

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These are some blossoms that are almost ready on my Liberty apple tree.

This is the West side of the garden.  There are 6 beds this year instead of just the 4 we had last year, although the final two do not have soil in them yet.  Along the back fence is some raspberries.  They, like everything else in my yard, were stunted by the nasty soil and the tons of rocks.  I have been piling homemade compost on them all winter long in hopes that they will do some serious growing this year, and they have shoots for the very first time!

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In the left corner there is the chicken coop.  It is a temporary home for my three remaining older chickens so that I can get the new coop built in the shed.  The tiny chicks are in the shed now.  Eventually everyone will be in the coop together. 

I have ten 6X4ft beds, four 4x4ft beds, and one 10x2ft bed.  When the chickens move I will have a long skinny bed built where the temporary coop is that will be dedicated to perennial herbs.

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The apple tree next to the chicken coop in this photo has also just started to leaf out.  It’s such a sweet little tree!  I am really hoping to get apples off of it this year.  The last two years they have had a bad case of Scab, but I took some precautions this year and I am feeling good about the health of the leaves I see coming out.

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That’s it for now!  Happy Gardening!

{this moment} - Babies

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Guess what?

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Chicken butt.

It’s a work in progress… but man do I love it!

The back yard. 

The center of so much.

It has been a little over worked lately, and just like the rest of my life, I have spent my time and effort streamlining it a bit this season. 

With the help of my trusty teenager, I have moved huge lilac bushes, transplanted about 200 bulbs, moved flower bed boarders, planted 7 fruit trees (some help from The Man there, too), taken down two buildings, leveled three garden beds, had a shed built, replaced huge parts of the fence and began building an arbor for my grapes. 

The south side of the yard is the garden.  So far this year I have put in peas, onions, kale, spinach, carrots, broccoli, potatoes and flowers.  I am looking forward to another warm week where I can harden off my corn and squash that have been started in my laundry room.  Before I plant anything else though, the two beds that were sinking into the ground needed to be replaced.

Before:

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This is just after we moved the sinking beds to the other side of the garden.  So the left side is just piles of dirt with no boxes around it.  Now we have boxes that look like this:

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And guess what!?!  They are level!  *happy day*  ( I used this technique.)

This next picture is before the beds were finished but after I got up the first half of the grape arbor:

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The arbor style and design is taken directly from the style of the house molding. 

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I wanted it to reflect this portion of the house so I got up on a ladder and traced it with cardboard.  Then I cut that out and used it as a template for my jig saw with a wood cutting blade.  It’s a thick piece of wood (a 2X8 of pressure treated wood) but it cut nicely after I replaced the blade with the wood cutting bit.  Then I sanded it down and put it up level.  I am a little obsessed with level.  I will do the same with another set of posts and cross beam and then connect them with lattice and paint it all white.  I am even considering painting the garden boxes white.  What do you think about painted garden boxes?

I have before and after’s for both sides of the yard, but the north side is much more ‘finished’.  We hired out the shed job (and VERY glad we did), which made a big portion of the job go very quickly.

The north side of the yard ‘before’:

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‘After’

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Do you love it?  I sure do!  We will be continuing the work on the fence with cash over the first few good weather weeks we get, but I am happy for now that the baby can not get to the yard next door and down to their stream.  That guide line that is above the fence is going to be the new fence height.  It will be a wonderful backdrop to this side of the yard. 

The shed went in in less than 5 hours!  AMAZING.  Considering the play house took just under 3 months of labor where I lived in painting clothes and pony tails…  I’ll take it.  What an amazing time saver hired help can be!  On top of that, I have a close to new gallon of each paint color, which matches the house.

The plants that are in that bed under the maple tree were all moved… including that large bush in the center.  We moved it early Feb and it seems to be doing fine.  I read that it is very hard to kill lilacs in this climate and I really hope that is true, because I love this one… it was just where I wanted a pear tree instead.

On a less than awesome note, we found 31 baby rats underneath the old shed!  We got rid of them and the three mamas too (there were three full nests) and now can report a rat free area… and hopefully, between my cats and a few things I am teaching the children about chicken coop cleanliness, it will stay rat free. 

This is where I have spent most of my time lately.  My 16 yr old, Alex, has been a huge help on any projects that seem to get away from me.  He did most of the deconstruction of the old shed himself and piled the whole thing into the truck single handed.  He is turning out to be an amazing worker and I am very proud of his skills. 

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Our new babies are hanging out all warm in their new, leak free shed, and I can’t wait to get the chicken coop inside finished so the rest of the bitties can move in with them. 

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Homeschooling Today - Raccoon Unit Study

In our homeschooling, we often glide naturally from one study to another along with the seasons.  As winter moves into spring, the critters are waking up and starting to nest.  Before long we will see baby raccoons wandering around our yards at night, looking for food. 


For the past few weeks Logan and I have been reading the book “Kit - the Adventures of a Raccoon” by Shirley Woods.  It tells the story of the adventure of Kit’s life from the day of his birth until he leaves his mother and finds his own mate and den. 

When Kit was about 10 weeks old, his mother needed to move them from their natal den to a den that was closer to the ground.  The kits (baby raccoons) were getting frisky enough for the mother raccoon to get worried about them playing and falling out of the tree.  As we read about how she grabbed the babies and carried them out of the tree and to a den in the fallen tree, I was struck with the thought that I had seen this before.  In my own yard, years ago. 

This mother raccoon lived a fir tree in the backyard of our rental  just before we bought this house 4 years ago.  One day we noticed a big commotion out our backdoor and we watched the mama raccoon move her 4 kits out of our yard. 

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She brought them, one by one, down the tree.  Two of them were pretty passive, but as she started to take the third one out of the tree, he would grab on to the ivy roots, or the smaller branches and would get a growl and a big cuffing on the side of the head for his trouble. 

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She took them down the tree, across the yard, and up a smaller tree, over the fence to the wetland area behind the house.
 
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Since Logan was just over 2 when this happened, it was neat to relive it by telling him the story and showing him the pictures.  Also, by reading the book, I discovered that these babies were probably not being moved because of danger in our yard (as I thought at the time) but because the natal den was too high and they were probably in danger of falling out of the tree like Kit was in the book! 
It was a fun day to be a homeschooler.  Smile
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