Tuesday, June 24, 2008

First Rhubarb Pie of the Season

Although Sophia and Olivia had already harvested the first rhubarb of the season last month, today was the day to make rhubarb pies. 3 of them. 2 standard 9" pies, and one miniature pie.

The pies needed 9 cups of chopped rhubarb. That's quite a bit once you start chopping.

I make pie crusts from scratch...an old recipe from my Grandma...that uses lard, flour, salt, sugar, and water. Instead of all-purpose flour, I used a trio of flours today: all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flours.

Although the pie was fine (thanks to a Betty Crocker recipe), the crust wasn't as light and flaky as it is normally. So much for trying to make something a bit more healthy. Next time it will be back to the unhealthy (but tastier) pie crust.

In addition to the rhubarb, the strawberries are producing this year which is great. Fresh from the garden, organic strawberries. The flavor is incredible!

It looks like it will be a bumper crop for the raspberries this year. Over half of the raspberries are transplanted wild ones that Sophia and I planted last year. (They were next to the road that kept getting mowed by the township mower...or eaten by people walking their dogs.)

Looks like we'll be making lots of raspberry jam this summer...a favorite one that we enjoy all winter long.

Summer is a great time for the girls in terms of homeschooling. There are so many hands-on lessons that they are able to do - especially related to gardening, nature, and science. Home economics and cooking is a big part of summer as well as they learn the old-fashioned skills - like canning - that they can enjoy now and as an adult.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pears Starting to Grow

The pears are beginning to grow. This picture was taken on June 21st...the start of the growing season. There doesn't look like there are as many pears this year.

Unfortunately, there were two major wind and hail storms (the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and May 31st). The pear and plum trees were both full of blossoms. After the wind/hail storm...very few remained.

I'm grateful, though, that some pears and plums are growing. Fresh, organic fruit straight from the tree can't be beat.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

One of the gifts my father gave me early on was the encouragement to try new things...and to ask for help when I needed it.

He raised bees when he was a child and teenager; and then went back to beekeeping as an adult.

Once I moved to the farm, he gave me his beekeeping equipment, hoping to pass along the hobby.

I tried it under the guidance of a beekeeper for a year. After getting repeatedly stung in my knee and watching it swell to an unnatural size...I realized that, perhaps, beekeeping is best left to people who REALLY know what they're doing.

After a hiatus from having bees, they have returned to the farm now and are being managed by a professional beekeeper. He knows what he's doing. He does this in exchange for having about 4 or 5 hives on the back part of the property. We get the honey when the season is done (from our hive).

So, the girls and I walked out the other day and looked at the hive (from a distance). The bees were busy flying in and out of the hive. They're busy and work...and it is fun to have bees again at the farm.

In the fall, hopefully the girls will have the opportunity to see the harvesting and processing stages...then they'll see the full circle (or cycle) of beekeeping.

I'm grateful that my dad gave me his equipment...and the encouragement to try new activities and develop new skills. Even though I'm not able to the beekeeping by myself...I have tried many things - new things - in the past year. I can thank my dad for being a great role model and inspiration as I challenge myself in new ways during the next year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Monarchs are Back

June 1st marked the first day that we spotted a monarch here in Minnesota.
Since then, the girls have been looking for eggs on the bottom of the milkweed leaves to see if there are any.

This year we are planning to go out more often and look for eggs and caterpillars, so we can raise more monarchs.

It is such a fascinating process to see them move through the stages from caterpillar to butterfly. Visit
http://www.flickr.com/photos/picturesbyann to see more pictures of the caterpillars in various stages of growth and the release process.

This evening on our nature walk, we spotted two more monarchs! A nice way to end the day.

Waldorf Inspired Window Stars

I've been making these window stars for some time now. Each new pattern is a challenge to try, and such a joy to see completed.

Each of the stars are created by folding very small pieces of a special translucent paper multiple times. Some of the stars have required 18 or 19 folds per point.

My daughters enjoy seeing the stars on the windows at home...especially when we are homeschooling.

The stars provide color and beauty on days when it seems a bit darker...especially on the days when it is raining and snowing. When it is bright outside, the suns rays just seem to radiate through the stars.

More examples of the stars can be seen at my Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/picturesbyann . Look under the "Things I've Made" section.

These stars and many others are available at http://www.harvestmoonbyhand.etsy.com/ .

Needlefelted Alphabet Set

This is a set of alphabet cards that I made for my daughters who are learning how to read and spell (the older one) and identify letters (the younger one).

Both are hands-on, visual learners. The four picture cards on the corners are either ATCs or ACEOs that are available (the top 2) or traded (the bottom 2).

Each card is the standard ATC/ACEO size (2 1/2" x 3 1/2") and is made with 100% sheep wool. The letter and background are both needlefelted with a single barbed needle onto a white wool base.

The girls have watched me make needlefelted ATCs (and tried their hand at making their own which is a different story). So, I started by making the A, B, and C cards one night. The next morning, they saw the cards and were so excited.
I said, "If I made the entire alphabet so you could put the letters together to make words, would you like that?"
"YES!" Sophia (the older daughter) said.
To Olivia I said, "You could put all the letters in order when you sing the ABC song. Would you like that?"
"YES!" she said.
So, I began working on the needlefelted alphabet set. This was a great way to use the many colors that were in the wool bin (I was surprised at how many different types I had as I was making the cards).
Now that they're done, the girls used them yesterday when they were "playing school" together. I could hear Sophia ask Olivia what each of the letters were...and she used them to create words to teach her sister. "This is how you spell 'cat' ... C - A - T."
They are learning...even when I'm not teaching them. It made me smile.
For families/teachers/home educators, individual cards and the entire alphabet set that look like these are available in my Etsy shop (http://www.harvestmoonbyhand.etsy.com/).
For those who enjoy trading ATCs, if you are interested in trading one of your cards for a needlefelted one, please email me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Blue June Sunrise on the 7th

One thing I love about living in the country is the sunrises and sunsets. This one was just so blue. It was so different from the other vivid oranges, yellows, and reds that I commonly see.

This view is looking west...so actually the sun is rising behind me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Family Traditions

The Tooth Fairy has been making rather frequent visits here this year. This marks Tooth #6. With each visit, the set-up is a bit more elaborate.

Sophia has prepared a snack for her Tooth Fairy, Flossie. On the plate are lavender cookies. She has juice and water to drink (in the cup and pitcher respectively) as well as a couple of chunks of sugar cube ("for extra energy").

The tray was brought up to Sophia's room and placed next to her bed. She wrote a note, placed her tooth in a box for Flossie to find, and arranged some items around her nightstand so Flossie could see them.

The thrill in the morning of having Flossie visit is so memorable. With "fairy dust" sprinkled on Sophia's hair and clothes as well as all around the eaten food and nightstand...plus a few coins from Flossie...it is something that is talked about all day.

Sometimes Flossie even leaves notes and handmade cards for Sophia. She keeps every one of them right on her nightstand.