Elijah had a birthday last week. Most of us went in on a high-lift jack to go along with his truck, and when it was delivered here, on his birthday, I decided to hide it in the truck. It has tinted windows, and we knew he wouldn’t be using it that evening. That gave us the idea to make him a treasure hunt to find it, so the other children all put their heads together and wrote up a trail of clues. It took them about five minutes to write and distribute all the clues! I got a video of the last two stops so that Simon could share in a little of the fun, since he couldn’t be here. The first clip shows him finding the clue for which he was given “Words in Red.” He found the last one there, which was, “Red Monster,” meaning his truck. Then, though it’s dark, you can see him finding the gift. After that, everyone came back inside and he was given a few other things. First, James challenged him to an arm wrestle–the winner could have the gifts! Unfortunately for James, Elijah is quite a lot stronger still! After that, James started a newspaper-ball fight with the gift wrapping. (Do you get the idea that James keeps things lively here?)
Activities at Home
Our children are always coming up with new and creative ways to have fun together. One Sunday afternoon on our way home from church we stopped and let the girls pick a few daffodils beside the road. Then, Esther took a selfie with her little sisters and their flowers.
Mr. Imagination built this contraption for Miss Joy. It’s supposed to be a tractor; it’s more like a go-kart. They have spent a lot of time pushing each other around in it.
One afternoon, I noticed the girls playing that they were going shopping with the book bags Grandma made while she was here. I didn’t want to distract them by going in the room to get my camera, so I grabbed the iPad to take a picture. It didn’t turn out very well, but it’s precious to me anyway.
Miss Joy loves Goofball! Goofball isn’t sure she loves Miss Joy, but she puts up with a lot. She’s a very gentle cat who keeps her claws in.
Gayle frequently walks “around the block” with the children. One time, he let them slide on piles of gravel at the bottom of the hill. They sure had fun–and they sure came home dirty!
Sometimes a book we read aloud together really strikes a chord with the children. We’re studying the Middle Ages right now, working our way through the TruthQuest History guide to the Middle Ages. One historical fiction suggestion was Palio, by Marguerite Henry. This book isn’t set in the Middle Ages, but it describes a race that has been happening twice every year for over 700 years, following the same rituals as at its beginning in the Middle Ages. I happen to love Marguerite Henry’s books, so it was a great excuse to reread one of them!
All of us thoroughly enjoyed reading Palio. By the time we reached the last half dozen chapters, I was getting questions about whether the Palio is still being run, so I promised that we would look it up online after finishing the book. We did, and sure enough, it is still being held every July and August. In fact, we finished reading the book on August 14, and the next running of the Palio was only two days away! Esther found us a video online that showed the event through the eyes of a Sienese native, and then we watched one about the horse lottery that happened that week. The day the race was run, we searched for another about the day’s race, and got to watch that. It was a lot of fun to be able to see the continuation of a tradition we had just read an engrossing story about. Having read the book, we were somewhat familiar with the various neighborhoods of Siena and were able to recognize them even though the broadcasts were in Italian.
Reading aloud is so much fun! It is definitely the favorite part of the school day for both the children and their teacher. I read to them for 30-45 minutes every morning while the breakfast dishes are being done before we start our school day, another 40-45 minutes in the afternoon while lunch dishes are being washed, and also to each of the little girls separately, for 15-20 minutes each, some time during the day. Winter is great for being able to do that! Summer is more challenging; I still read during dishwashing time, but it’s harder to fit in the little girls’ reading (although by now Miss Joy makes sure I don’t forget her–if she realizes in the evening that I haven’t yet, she announces, with great drama as if it is a catastrophe, “You haven’t read to me yet!”).
Here are the last several photos from July! The boys found this typewriter at the dump one day. They brought it home and we found that it worked fine. I bought a new ribbon for it so they could actually use it, and they occasionally do.
Mr. Sweetie working hard at his school work while Princess enjoys her favorite resting place–the penguin that matches her coat.
We went to North Canterbury to visit friends in late July, and saw a lot of snow on the way home. This is near Hanmer Springs, and there was even more near Lewis Pass. We didn’t stop to play in it, though, because Miss Joy was asleep and we didn’t want her to wake up. Travel is a lot easier when the youngest is asleep!
It’s the time of year for rainbows, and this one, viewed from our living room window, was especially beautiful.
Our homeschool group spent a couple of months building and racing go-karts. Mr. Sweetie was the leader of this team; here, they are putting on the final touches before the big race. Unfortunately, his team lost.
We killed a steer in July. The boys are getting very good at this job! Simon and James built the crane, which mounts on Simon’s tractor. It works well! Sure is easier to skin an animal this way than if it’s laying on the ground.
A few days later, Esther and I did our bit, breaking down the carcass and boning it out. This first picture is both hind quarters; the second is the front quarters.
We ate lunch outside that day! We were thankful to have a warm mid-winter day, since the kitchen table was so full. Simon fried up some scraps of meat that were too small to make into steaks, but very tender. Yum!
When I looked through the photos I had from July, I noticed a lot of pictures of my little girls, and several of the cats–and some of both girls and cats.
Princess spends a lot of the winter in front of the fire. Usually she is curled up facing it, but this one day it looked like she just flopped down as she was walking!
One of the boys took this picture of Miss Joy while he was supposed to be doing school.
The girls love walking with their daddy! He often takes them around the block or down to the river.
The fad for awhile was crowns. Little Miss found a book on our shelves that showed her how to make a crown out of foil, so she made a number of them.
It’s always special to get Jo-Jo to sit on your shoulder!
One evening, Miss Joy was quite cranky. When I remembered that we had recordings of Grandma reading several picture books we have, I spent a few minutes transferring the recordings to my iPad and finding the books on the shelf. Her evening was suddenly transformed; she spent the next 45 minutes till it was time to eat totally engrossed in stories.
A craft project we did one day was to make fans, since we had just spent a couple of days learning about Japan. The girls then packed a tea party and took it outside.
Goofball is Miss Joy’s favorite cat, because she is always gentle. We had our homeschool group meeting here one day, and while the children played outside, these two sat on our vine-covered stump and watched for quite a long time.
Our little mommy. She loves her dolls!
Here are last month’s pictures!
I was working in the garden one day, digging oxalis corms and buttercups out under the edge of the greenhouse. Miss Joy came along and laid down flat on the freshly-dug soil, and started digging through it, finding earthworms. I suggested she “plant” the earthworms in soil in her container, so she did, and then tried to dig them out.
Jo-Jo the cockatiel and Kea the budgie get along pretty well most of the time.
We had a lot of frosty mornings the first two weeks of June. Mr. Sweetie used my camera one morning to get pictures of the sun coming up through the trees across the road.
He also got some pictures of a cold kingfisher that sat on this post for awhile. Once, we saw it fly down to the mud, pick something up, and eat it–probably a worm.
Another day, the children found this tiny frog in a flax bush behind the house.
Miss Joy loves to brush hair. One morning when Little Miss needed her hair brushed, and Miss Joy was at loose ends, I suggested she brush her big sister’s hair. She was delighted, and it kept her busy for quite awhile. She’s very gentle, and does a good job.
Mr. Sweetie was outside with my camera one day and took a picture of Grizzly. That cat is always looking for a new place to sit for a nap.
Several months ago, I took several of the children to the library. One book they picked out was about birds, and the three youngest enjoyed acting it out. Mr. Imagination is reading the book while his two little sisters do the actions. This video clip is rather blurry and shaky, but there are enough cute parts that I thought Grandma might enjoy it.
May was a busy month–but not many photos! Here are the ones I have to share.
I was sitting here at my desk one rainy day (it rained the entire month of May) and glanced out the window to my right. There were two wekas walking around in the drainage ditch!
This was a Sunday afternoon that we spent at home. A friend came for lunch and played a game with the children. It happened to be Simon’s weekend off, so he was here, too.
This was the most exciting thing that happened in May. We hatched some eggs in our incubator! We started with 36 eggs, but threw away 21 after a week and a half because they were duds. We ended up with 9 babies. So exciting to have some success!
Our jalapeno plants in the greenhouse, did very well this year. There were so many that I decided to try pickling them. I thought this bowlful of sliced peppers was so pretty!
The final product is pretty, too. I used a few slices in a soup I made for church today, and they flavored it very nicely. The boys like to add these to hamburger sandwiches or tacos.
We often see James sleeping in odd places when we finish family prayers in the evening. He goes hard all day, and then sleeps hard at night.
Several days ago, I cut open a pumpkin to cook. Little Miss wanted to dig the seeds out of it, and we were talking about how many seeds there were. I got curious, so we divided all the seeds into three groups and I had the three school children each count a group. First, we all guessed how many. I was closest; I guessed 500 and there ended up being 518! That’s a lot of seeds.
Do you sense a theme here? Milk last week, meat this week. Hmm. What does my life revolve around? It couldn’t be feeding a lot of hungry people, could it?
We’ve processed two cows in the past month. One was an old dairy cow that we boned out and ground up because she was too tough for much else. The other was a 1 1/2-year-old steer that we raised. He was on the small side for eating, but because of his bad habit of jumping fences, we decided that he had better jump into the freezer before he caused any more trouble with neighbors. We have a lot of meat in the freezer! I thought I’d share a few pictures of some of the things we did with all that meat.
First, here is a picture of Simon running it through the mincer. We normally use that table for school in the mornings, but the days that we were working on meat, we set up a table in the living room and used that, instead.
I made a lot of the meat into meatloaf. I packed it into plastic-wrap lined loaf pans, froze it, then popped it out and put two loaves into each ziploc bag in the freezer. We’ve already had a couple of easy meals from that.
Another lot of meat got shaped into hamburger patties and frozen, then put into bags, free-flow. I put plastic wrap between each two layers of patties on the cookie sheet, and stacked them up about four layers high. It wasn’t too hard to pop them apart with a butter knife to transfer to a bag when they were frozen.
I also saved out a lot that day to make into meatballs the next day, which are also in the freezer. I guess we forgot to get a picture of them!
Another lot of meat I cooked up right away and froze that way. It sure is handy to pull out a package of frozen, cooked hamburger and throw it into my soup or whatever! I liked it so well after doing the first cow that I cooked up a lot more from the second one. I was also going to can a lot of it, but I got sick and spent the day in bed, instead, so Esther just divided the meat up and froze it raw.
We saved all the bones, too. We cut them into smaller pieces with a power saw, and divided them into bags according to the amount that will fit into my biggest pot. I fill the pot with water and add some vinegar, then simmer for a day or two. Then, I pressure can it and we have the beginnings of instant soup or gravy!
We got all these bones from the old cow! I didn’t make it through all of them before it was time to do the steer, but had friends who were happy to take some.
One of the evenings we were working on meat, I didn’t have much time to cook but needed a nourishing meal quickly. I opened these jars–beans, stew beef, and broth–and made a quick, delicious stew.
Then end product: I had some black beans in the fridge, and added a package of pasta. We enjoyed it that evening, and there was enough left for men’s lunches the next day or two.