Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Another bunch of plants arrived from the nursery this week, including 10 Sugar Maple Trees, 25 asparagus plants, and 6 butterfly bushes, among other things. I have also acquired 3 more pear trees. I tried to dig holes around the propane tank (big, ugly beast) for the butterfly bushes earlier, but couldn't get down more than an inch, even after running the sprinkler for 30 minutes. I tried again after the big Rain Day storm with the same results, so JP promised to dig shallow holes with the auger for me.

Before attaching the auger to the tractor (it takes both of us, and at least 15 minutes to do it), JP hooked up his new middle buster to clear out the rain water cistern overflow and the grey water drainage trenches. After about 15 minutes, and before he had finished the task, the equipment broke...the blade pulled off the implement!

Plan B: on to digging those holes! We got 5 holes dug for half of the Sugar Maples behind the house and barn, and dug out the Red Maple from the front yard that the bucks killed last Fall. We deliberated for a while where to put the next pear tree in the row...trying to get it far enough away from where the electrical lines go through. Part way through digging that hole, we heard a terrible grinding noise, and the auger quit. I dug out the last 2 pear tree holes by hand...actually re-dug, as we were replacing 2 that died.

Final tally: 3 pears and 5 maples planted, 2 tractor implements broken, 2 very sweaty and dirty individuals. The good news is that the equipment simply needs new shear pins...most tractor equipment is built so that a shear pin breaks before gears or the PTO of the tractor can, so it will be relatively inexpensive and easy to fix. The bad news is that it will be yet another week before I can finish planting the trees!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Outing of the Week 6 - Rain Day and Wild Things Game

Today is the infamous Rain Day in the Burg. It all started in 1874, when someone started keeping a record rainfall on his birthday, July 29th. It has now rained 113 Rain Days out of the last 137. True to keeping, we had a doozy of a rain storm this afternoon. Luckily it let loose about an hour after we returned home from the Rain Day festivities in town, where they close down High Street and fill it up with booths of food, crafts, drawings for prizes and fun things for the kids.

Later this evening, we met up with 24 of our other friends to fill up a section at our local Frontier League Baseball stadium to watch a game. (The Wild Things are the team in blue.) Unfortunately, the game started late after a rain delay (see above) and we snuck out at 10 PM after the 7th inning stretch! I just looked on line to find out that we won the game 12-7.

Fun, fun, fun...tired, tired, tired!

Busy Bees

The bees were swarming all over the corn tassels today, just doing their thing.

Look at all the pollen on this lady!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Think I Can...

My Post Title is overly optimistic, I think. I am trying will positiveness into my brain by just thinking it!

I just finished going through J's school papers from last year, and clearing out the cabinet to make room for L's school things. Right now I am feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt and fatigue. It's so bad, that I am unable to do anything else at the moment but ruminate!

These are the things causing guilt: 1) Finding several Preschool workbooks in the cabinet that I had every intention of going through with L, but never found the time to when both of us were in the right mood. In all honesty, she knows the material...picked it up while I was working with J, and through her own Preschool experience. It's just the principle that I never sat with her and did these things like I did with J. 2) Uncovering a book for grades K-5 on computer/word processing that I meant to go over with J. Again, she has picked up many of these skills by using the computer to create a couple of Power Points for extra credit last year. Ok...maybe I don't feel so guilty about that one after all.

This is THE thing causing fatigue: Simply thinking about cyber school last Spring. J and I finally got into a routine around April, but it was very easily thrown off by an extra Dr. appointment or trying to make it to a play group. I just don't know how I can possibly teach this curriculum to 2 children and still work, manage the garden, fit in violin lessons and soccer practice, and oh yeah! we probably have to eat and have clean clothes occasionally...are there truly enough hours in the day? Do I truly have the sanity in my being to do this? (Oh, and here's another one to add to the guilt list: L really wants to take music lessons. I should have started her on something already, but I'm not sure I can handle 2 violin practice sessions a day!)

JP asks, when I get in this terribly fatalistic mood about school: "When does J start doing stuff on her own?" There are things that she could and will have to take more personal responsibility on next year. My opinion however, is that her "home schooling" experience should NOT be one where she teaches herself. I feel that my role is to be able to present the new material to her, similar to what might happen in a Public School classroom, then allow her to work through it on her own while being available to help with problems and questions.

This summer is not going at all like I had hoped. I was hoping to slip a bit of violin in here, some gardening in there, and lots of afternoons full of reading. Instead, the things I do are taking me so long, that I am not having the long lazy hours to spend organizing this all. I don't think the girls mind, actually, that they have long, unstructured days in which to spend all the time they want playing so creatively.

Yesterday and today, J and I worked together to sew a dress for her doll. She did most of the work, and it turned out very nicely. She came up to me tonight and thanked me for doing that project with her...such a sweet heart! At least I have confirmation that some of the time, I parent in the right, important way!

Am I wrong, all you home-schoolers out there, in my desires for teaching my children in this way? Should I really just be dumping workbooks in their laps and expecting them to fill them out? I don't think I would enjoy that kind of education, which is why I have higher expectations of myself as a Mommy/Educator. Perhaps my expectations are TOO high. (Really, any one who knows me is probably saying "Uh...yeah!" right about now.) At least in this situation, I am pushing myself for my kids, and not for personal reasons...nothing is too good for my kid, right?

Oh boy, oh boy...this post is just all of my CRAZY coming out! At least it has been somewhat therapeutic. I think I can go finish my sewing now and put the machine away.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Planking is SO Over!

Whoops! I missed it! Were any of the rest of you aware of the fad earlier this month of planking? Apparently it is (was) a really cool game where you lie face down somewhere strange and then take a picture.

So, things have taken a turn for the better in the past couple of weeks when folks have switched from the outdated planking to the newer and cooler game of owling, or perching like an owl in odd places and taking a picture.

I had no idea how out in the boonies I really live! I'm so glad that I can learn a thing or two on the internet. The best thing that I learned tonight in my research on planking and owling is that owling also refers to the practice of smuggling sheep. Now THAT'S something that might happen around here!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Outing of the Week 5 - Trolley Museum and Ephrata Water Park

It has been a hot week. Hot. Hot. Hot.

I dabbled a bit in the garden some mornings, but mostly we stayed in. I worked an extra half day on Monday, and by the afternoon, the girls and I were ready to jump in a lake. Or a pool. We choose pool, and went to the local water park, which used to be the local pool (and was a lot less expensive to get into back in the day!) J swam like a fish, and L did things that she never had before, like go down the water slide and swim under water under the raining mushroom. So we finally made it to the pool by the last part of July. Whatever.

On Thursday, our designated Outing Day, we scrapped the idea of outside touring for the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, just 40 minutes away. We got to take a 30 minute ride on a restored electric trolley through the countryside, then quickly walked through the Children's Garden right next door. We continued on to do some back-to-school clothes shopping and went to Toys-R-Us as the girls had saved up for a toy that was currently BOGO.

After work on Friday, we loaded up the van, stopped by the Hex House for Grandmom, and started our journey to Ephrata in the 95* heat. We arrived at the home of my Aunt sometime after 9 PM. The following day, my Aunt hosted myself, 4 of my cousins, another Aunt, my mother, and 8 cousin-and-a-halves for brunch and water play. She had set up a virtual water park in her back yard, complete with Kidwash, pool, slip-n-slide, water guns, bubbles and water balloons. By the time the temps were nearing 100*, it was time to shed the wet clothes, climb back into the HOT van, and drive 10 minutes to my Grandpa's apartment.

We talked with Grandpa about birds, gardens, house projects, my brother's imminent move, my job, the girls' school, blue crayfish and coal mining. I hadn't seen him since Grandma's funeral back in October, and I thought he was actually looking a bit better since then. It was good to see him smile again!

We kissed Grandpa goodbye and dragged our tired bodies out to the even HOTTER van, and turned South and West toward our corner of the world. Once we made it over the mountains in Maryland, with a brief stop at Sideling Hill, the temperatures dropped 10 degrees and everything looked pleasantly greener. We returned home to discover that it had rained significantly in our absence and cooled things off a bit.

Today was humid and hot again...typical for a Pennsylvania summer. JP and I picked beans this morning, and snapped them (with L's help) while watching a movie this afternoon. At the moment, I am waiting for the pressure canner to cool off, so I can see if my first attempt at canning beans was successful.

Thus ends another full summer week!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Order out of Chaos

I think I've mentioned in previous posts that I enjoy seeing the end result of any kind of disorderly situation, although the path there may be tedious and/or painful. My Mom and I worked hard in the garden this weekend to try to whip it into shape. Here is the end result:

All of the raised beds are weeded and mulched, and so too is the area at the end where most of the vining plants are growing. There are 3 beds that are still not planted. 2 of them will be Fall peas, to be planted the last week of July. The last is mostly for the chickens to scratch around in.

The pile of topsoil at the very bottom is my next project: prepping the asparagus bed.

The tiered bed to the right is the strawberries, which are shooting out runners every which way, and now have a new set of blossoms on them.

What you can't see is the state of my poor, old body...feel about 85 tonight. I seem to have contracted a summer cold (or "code" as I am pronouncing things at this point) as well, so I plan to drug myself and head to bed. Hope everyone had similarly productive weekends!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Outing of the Week 4 - water play with friends

Ok...this only slightly fills the qualifications of an "outing": something fun, and away from home. The girls certainly enjoyed playing in the giant, blow-up water slide/pool thingie with their friends! L stayed in the water until her lips were purple. J didn't get out until she was forced to in order to head home for dinner.

The girls also have a weekly, pre-scheduled outing at the library all summer. They go for Story Hour/Reading Group, have lunch and a movie, and then spend some time doing geography/world cultures/social studies up in the Family Literacy Dept. L asked me, on the way to Library Day Camp this week, "what do you do all day while we are gone?" Unfortunately I accomplish much less that I hope to every time. This is the first time since I was in my early 30's that I haven't been responsible for ANY children, and at that point I was both pregnant AND working full time! Just having peace and quiet is LUXURIOUS!

Mostly I work in the garden and run errands. This week, I managed a walk with a friend, which turned into a visit with another friend that we bumped into on the way. I'm also trying to get some CME (Continuing Medical Education) reading done, so that I don't end up trying to get 100 hours of reading done in 4 months before my certification expires like last time. Mom and I are planning to tackle the garden with gusto this weekend, and hopefully it will be wrangled into shape enough for pictures (although I think it looks beautiful now, despite the weeds!)

I picked the first basket of beans last evening, and snapped them while watching "Arrested Development" on Netflix. They are vibrantly colored enough for the kids to help pick (which they did this morning with my Mom).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspired by Nat King Cole

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Days of soda and pretzels and beer.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

You'll wish that summer could always be here!

Sing it Nat!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Outing of the Week 3 - VA, Mountain State Brewing Co., Cold Stone Creamery & the POOL

Ah yes, it has been a busy weekend! We started off with a quick trip to VA for the Memorial Service and Interment of JP's mother. It was lovely to see family again, and we were able to get a few pictures of those of us who were there. The girls (as always) adored being with their older cousins, and were extremely reluctant to leave. We had to head home directly after the services, however, since JP is on call this week, and we really needed to be closer to home.

We did manage, however, to include a Half-Birthday celebration for the girls later on. This is a concession, mostly to L, whose birthday gets lost in the shuffle and madness of Christmas. J can't stand being left out, so she gets included for the next couple of years yet. Usually we celebrate the middle of June, but it was overlooked this year, so...better late than never, right?

This year we celebrated by a trip to a new restaurant, recommended by an acquaintance, in nearby Mo'town: Mountain State Brewing Co. The whole building has a rustic feel, with the wood burning stone oven taking center stage inside, and logs serving as pillars and posts. We started off with this lovely appetizer plate, since we were all starving. It had candied roasted almonds, wedges of brie, Gorgonzola, and asiago cheese, green olives and dried apricots.

Next, we had an amazing "flatbread" (their name for pizza) topped with olive oil, garlic, artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and basil. We had to try a sampler of their micro-brewed beers on tap. The blond "Cold Trail Ale" was my favorite.

We had dessert at Cold Stone Creamery, and were quite conservative with our mix-ins for first timers...too full, I guess. But, we were able to work it all off with several hours in the swimming pool.

The girls got a couple of new Wii games for gifts (did you know that you can purchase used games on Amazon? It's the way to go!): Just Dance 2 (a new favorite they discovered after borrowing from a friend) and Wii Party (haven't tried it yet, but I noticed mostly 5 star reviews on Amazon, and it apparently has 80+ games for more than one player...bonus!).

Now it's back to tomorrow for JP and I. Luckily, JP got the mowing done yesterday, because it's TOO HOT to work outside today!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


We had a pleasant Independence Day about you? Major rain storms on Sunday brought down the expected temperatures from the 90's to the 70's, but increased the humidity factor.

This summer we are trying to get some play equipment set up for the girls. Until the big swingset and slide go in, we wanted to put in a tree swing. Unfortunately, most of our trees, since they were in the woods until recently, have vertical branches. We finally found one on the outskirts of our cleared land with 2 horizontal branches.

We made several attempts to get a rope over the tree branch, including one where I am in the tractor scoop, as far up as it can go, with my legs shaking so badly that I can hardly stand, let alone toss a rope another 20 feet up and over a branch. Finally JP let me down to stand on solid ground, and he was able to throw a giant bolt tied to twine over the branch, and haul up the rope that way. Then we were able to attach this swing, which the girls have named "Liberty".

They both enjoy riding her a lot!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Massacre

This morning, I finally decided that it was time to do something with the last pumpkin from our garden. It has been sitting on the counter in the kitchen since last Fall.

After 4 minutes in the pressure cooker...

After going through the food mill, I ended up with 5 cups of lovely pureed pumpkin, and a pile of seeds to roast.