Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Strawberry Project

This morning, bright and early, we headed to Tidwell's Berry Farm for some of these .........

Our boys helped the men at the Berry Farm unload their truck (coming FRESH from the fields), and then we purchased 4 flats (32 overflowing quarts).

The drive home was torture --- the delicate scent of FRESH STRAWBERRIES was almost too much to bear with the HANDS OFF policy we had agreed on ahead of time. (well, we HAD to sample a few to ensure that each quart was fresh, and then we had to eat some to sustain us on that longggggg drive home from the Berry Farm .... but we did not eat too many ....).

Really, we did NOT eat TOO many. (hee hee hee)

Here are the 4 flats of berries, after they were unloaded from the car.

We had lunch, and then set to work. The children washed, topped, and chopped them all -- in an hour and a half !! (We are an Army when we get moving in the same direction on a project !!)

Then we pureed the berries in the food processor, and put 4 cups of puree into each Ziploc bag. We now have 16 Ziploc bags (4c each bag) of Strawberry Puree.

OK, well, we ate more than a "few" berries .... but I have to mention that we also sliced a whole quart to have for dessert tonight with pound cake and whipped cream (with some left over for homemade strawberry milkshakes) .... but we DO have a lot left .... for when the time comes to make Homemade Strawberry Jam.

We have not purchased our new canning supplies yet, but in the mean while we thought it best to store up enough fresh fruit to make jams and jellies with later this summer.

There is almost nothing that tastes better than Homemade Strawberry Jam on homebaked bread. ** (insert Yummy Noises here) **

** Our next Fruit Project will be Blueberries at the end of June, and then the Peaches will be ready just after the July4th weekend. (Our tummies are thankful for a reprieve between fruit seasons. HA !)

Calls Needed to Stop Unnecessary Regulation of D.C. Homeschoolers

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

Calls are needed immediately to stop what would be one of the most onerous changes to homeschool regulations anywhere.

The District of Columbia is poised to enact restrictive homeschool regulations. One particularly onerous provision in Section 5208 gives the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) the discretion to terminate a homeschool program. The section then requires that parents re-enroll their children in a public or private school at the discretion of the OSSE. This approach fails to duly respect a parent's fundamental right to educate their children and gives the government too much authority and discretion.

Even if you do not live in the District of Columbia, we are asking you to call because the federal government has jurisdiction over the city and HSLDA has exhausted all our behind-the-scenes efforts to seek reasonable accommodations for homeschoolers in D.C.

If we do not act collectively as a homeschool community, these regulations will go into effect and severely restrict homeschool freedom for District homeschoolers and potentially set a damaging precedent.

Please call the people listed below and express your opposition in your own words. Be concise and courteous. Here is an example:

“If enacted, the proposed D.C. homeschooling regulations would be among the most onerous in the country. They give too much discretion and authority to education officials to determine whether a family may homeschool. We support the D.C. homeschoolers’ request that the OSSE and other education officials continue to work to improve the regulations, in ways such as removing the high school diploma requirement, increasing assessment options (if indeed any are needed), and providing for real due process in the event of a dispute between homeschoolers and education officials.”

The regulations should not be passed in their current form. Please ask the OSSE to go back and work with homeschoolers to improve them. Read an analysis of the proposed D.C. regulations >>

Office of the Mayor
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty

Phone: (202) 727-2980 Email webpage >>

Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor for Education
Phone: (202) 727-3636 Email:

Office of the State Superintendent
Deborah A. Gist, State Superintendent of Education

Phone: (202) 727-6436 Email:

Fonda Sutton,
Director of Policy, Research and Analysis Office of the State Superintendent of Education
Phone: (202) 727-9882 Email:

D.C. State Board of Education
Phone: (202) 442-4289

Robert Bobb
Elected Board Member; Term Expires December 2008

William Lockridge
Elected Board MemberDistrict 4 Member, Wards 7 & 8;
Term Expires December 2008

Lisa Raymond
Elected Board MemberDistrict 3 Member, Wards 5 & 6;
Term Expires December 2008

Laura Slover
Appointed Board Member

Ted Trabue
Appointed Board Member;
Term Expires December 2008

Sekou Biddle
Elected Board Member District 2, Wards 3 & 4

Mary Lord
Elected Board Member District 1, Wards 1 & 2

1. Responding to the Banita Jacks case, the District of Columbia embarked on a crackdown of homeschoolers. D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty publicly promised to regulate homeschooling. Read “Tragedy Prompts Calls for Heightened Scrutiny of Homeschoolers.”

2. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has authority to propose regulations and did work with HSLDA and other D.C. homeschoolers. They agreed to include certain language and provisions. However, the published regulations fail to deliver on assurances and promises that were given to D.C. homeschoolers.

3. Numerous homeschool families have testified before the State Board of Education (SBOE) and received high praise from Board members. The State Board has authority to approve the proposed regulations. In its hearing, the State Board was interested and seemed receptive to finding a solution that dealt fairly with homeschoolers. We want them to direct the OSSE to go back and work with homeschoolers to improve the regulations further.

4. Current D.C. regulations call for parents to simply notify the District that they are homeschooling. We support this approach as an excellent way to solve the current impasse.

Thank you for standing with us for homeschooling freedom!

Michael P. Donnelly, Esq.
HSLDA Staff Attorney

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our VERY Disappointed Child

Subway (sandwich shop) is having a contest called


I thought WHAT A DELIGHTFUL IDEA -- A CREATIVE WRITING CONTEST FOR YOUNG CHILDREN ! Cherub 3 was all set to enter; he had already begun his story. Needless to say he was VERY excited !!

However, when we read the ELIGIBILITY part of the rules list, we discovered that in order to enter this contest a child MUST be enrolled in an elementary, private, or parochial school. Hummmm .... (below is the EXACT rule quoted from the Subway website):

2. ELIGIBILITY. Contest is open only to legal residents of the United States who are currently over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted. Employees and members of their families of Scholastic and Subway, their parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates, and their advertising, promotion and production agencies are not eligible to enter. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

The rule specifically states NO HOME SCHOOLS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Cherub 3 will finish his story. He will just not be able to enter it in the contest.

How sad, to treat children in such a way. How awful to buden a child with DISCRIMINATION --- in this modern age, in a nation founded on FREEDOM. It is simply disgraceful !

I am left wondering exactly why home school students cannot enter ?? What is the reason for such a stipulation in the rules of a Creative Writing Contest for children ? Hummmmm. We have had a few conversations about this ....

Cherub 3 (who is VERY creative with his writing and had hoped to enter) shared his opinion about this rule .... nearing tears, he said, "I think they will not allow homeschoolers to enter because they are afraid to see that homeschooled children can not only write stories, but can actually write far better stories than children who sit at desks and read textbooks and do ruled assignments and formula writing hour after hour, day after day, grade after grade. I think most children eventually lose their creativity in school because there is no room for it to grow without boundaries and limitations. When they give you a sketch of an apple, it always has an instruction below it that says COLOR THE APPLE RED. Haven't they ever seen green apples ? Or yellow apples ? No - there is only one way to do everything in school. I am so glad I am not there. I know there are red, green, and yellow apples. And I can write a much better story now than I ever could have in a school. Too bad Subway is going to miss out on some truly great story because of their rule."

From the mouthes of babes ....... (I will admit that I am sad for him, but at the same time I am very proud of him !)

And to this, Cherub 6 (age 5yo) chimed in to support his big brother (who was very visibly upset) with BOCK BOCK BOCK (chicken immitation) while flapping his "wings". He also promised never to eat another Subway sandwich as long as he lives .... (HA !)

After years of eating Subway subs (esp during soccer and swim team seasons), we will not be visiting Subway again. There are plenty of resturants and sandwich shops that would LOVE our business.
** If this anti-homeschool-bias concerns you, please feel free to submit your concerns to Subway here:
*** You can also sign a petition online committing to a boycott of Subway here:
UPDATE May 29:
Subway Apologizes

HSLDA is pleased to pass along the following apology from Subway restaurants.


We at SUBWAY restaurants place a high value on education, regardless of the setting, and have initiated a number of programs and promotions aimed at educating our youth in the areas of health and fitness.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels excluded by our current essay contest. Our intention was to provide an opportunity for traditional schools, many of which we know have trouble affording athletic equipment, to win equipment. Our intent was certainly not to exclude homeschooled children from the opportunity to win prizes and benefit from better access to fitness equipment.

To address the inadvertent limitation of our current contest and provide an opportunity for even more kids to improve their fitness, we will soon create an additional contest in which homeschooled students will be encouraged to participate. When the kids win, everyone wins!

—Subway Restaurants
This is a wonderful beginning, and a welcome change to the policy. Thank you HSLDA for speaking up with your wonderful Open Letter, and thank you Subway for responding.
And is anyone still wondering WHY this ever mattered ?? It was JUST a dumb contest, right ??
It mattered because homeschoolers were denied participation based on the idea that first prize was designed for a school -- and the most important words in that statement are WERE DENIED PARTICIPATION. It mattered because my son was denied the right to enter a contest for Creative Writing -- BECAUSE his parents have chosen to home school.
From the beginning, fresh thinking would have inspired ideas to resolve this issue for Subway (without the discrimination) -- research would have shown how other companies have handled these "prizes" in contests past. TA DA !! There were several options available to this resturant, rather than denying thousands of families the right to participate. And what matters in the end is that in a nation founded on freedoms, the rights of our children were denied them.
And it mattered because after many many years of the "veteran homeschoolers" fighting the battles to get us (homeschoolers & homeschooling) to this point, THIS company pointed out most clearly homeschooling is not to be placed on the same level as private, parochial, or public education.
THAT is why it mattered .... see, it was not the silly contest at all, but was rather the principle of it all that was so important.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just In Time For Memorial Day Weekend

Found this online this morning and thought ....
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend !!

A Loving Gesture From The Army ... I Mean The Children

For the last 2 weeks, we have been adding some new plants to our flower beds a few at a time -- Cone Flowers of various colors, Joysticks, BlackEyed Susans, Coreopsis, Achillea, and more. The flowers were doing so-so but were drying out much too quickly despite watering daily with the sprinkler --- they were in DIRE NEED of mulch (which I never got around to doing last year either).

So, at 3pm on Thursday afternoon I drove (all by myself WITH the trailer attached to my van -- I am so proud that I did not hit anything or anyone !) to the CoOp and bought "1 scoop" of mulch (this 1 scoop would fill the bed of a large pick-up truck with a large mound of mulch). My plan was that I would mulch the flower beds a bit at a time over the course of the following week. If the mulch was HERE, I could work on it as I had time.

The van, the trailer, the mulch, AND I made it home from the CoOp (a 10 minute drive each way) safe and sound. HOORAY !! And I parked in the carport (and did I mention that I did not hit anything ?!?!) .... went inside for a cold glass of water (standing and watching mulch being scooped onto your trailer is DUSTY and tends to give you a dry whistler. HA !)

Well ..... after my cool drink I noticed that ALL of the children were circling the trailer with thoughtful expressions on their faces ... and then I blinked. Suddenly there were shovels and buckets, Tonka Trucks and Tonka Bulldozers ... a wagon ... and I could hear detailed instructions being given by the older children to the younger children on HOW to mulch flowers properly (this is a much more serious business than I realized - HA !)

Next there was a nearly-constant CLOUD of mulch around the trailer .... orders (to me) given by said children to move the trailer (with the trailer full of mulch still attached - OH MY !) here and there ... brooms and dustpans sweeping up the mulch that was dropped onto the driveway during loading ...

It was quite a scene !!

And before dark ALL of the flower beds were mulched beautifully and were being watered ....

BTW - I was finally allowed to help A LITTLE BIT (mostly I was allowed to CHECK each plant to be sure it was not too deeply covered in mulch, and that the mulch was evenly spread) .... but almost ALL of this hard work was done by an army of (our) children .... aren't they sweet ?!?!?

The above photo was taken while I was sitting
(as I was TOLD very firmly to do by my 2nd oldest child)
on the front porch steps,
watching the children spread mulch over the flower beds.
This is my favorite QUITE TIME spot --
and is the lovely view that I enjoy nearly every morning with my coffee.

These are the Nastursium seeds that were in each of the children's Easter Basket -- they are getting big ! (they will bloom in red, gold, and orange ... eventually.)

The Hollyhocks are HUGE this year !
This is a photo of Cherub 2's garden -- she selected various Annuals for her garden. And the garden is doing well -- except that she selected some little annuals that have feathery blossoms -- and the BIRDS are stealing these little plants one by one. They steal them ROOTS AND ALL ... leaving nothing behind except a little rectangluar empty hole in the soil. (note the empty space at the front of the bed in this photo -- see the holes ??) Too funny !!

They even mulched the flower bed below the Holly Trees. It looks SO much better.

This must be THE year for roses --- our roses are truly outdoing themselves ! They were just covered with big beautiful blooms a few weeks aso, and now are beginning to bloom all over again.
And the scents -- just lovely !!
Cherub 5's PURPLE (of course) Rose.
Cherub 2's PINK rose.
Our Lavendar plants are blooming and are growing by leaps and bounds. We have added coneflowers, blackeyed susans, blanket flowers, and more to this bed. And although little is blooming yet, the bed looks LOVELY with fresh mulch.

Projects & Progress

These two Cherry Tomato plants are separated from the main garden.
The children refer to these plants as the "Snack Machines".
(mulched with rotten hay around the base of each plant, caged, and then the perimeter is mulched with straw.)

Patch 1 of our GreenBeans have sprouted. (mulched with straw)

Our Cucumber Seeds have come up. We made the mounds, put in the seeds, and then covered the mounds with sheets of rotten hay. After that we mulched the rest of the "bed" with straw. This works great to keep the soil moist, and is also helping amend our clay soil.

In this last row, we planted our Kitchen Herbs -- Chives, Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, and Rosemary. (mulched with sheets of rotten hay to hold moisture)

To the right of the path are our tomato plants - mostly Romas, with a few BeefSteak, Early Girl, and Mr. Stripey added in. To the left of the path are our pepper plants - Sweet Bell peppers and Jalapenos. And at the opposite end of the pepper plants are 5 Black Beauty eggplant plants. We surrounded the base of each plant with rotten hay, staked every plant, and then mulched the remainder of the bed heavily with straw.

This is our garden at the mid-point. We had planted seeds and most of our plants, and had begun to lay down the landscape fabric paths. The next day we started mulching with the rotten hay (round bale at far right corner of garden) and with straw (still loaded on the trailer at this point).
This is a photo taken after we spent all day putting down the mulches of rotten hay and straw.

Another photo of the "Snack Machines".

Our first PEA plant.

The mounded row to the right is YELLOW CROOKNECK SQUASH,

and the mounded row to the left is ZUCCHINI.

(to the far right, mulched with straw, is Patch 2 of Blue Lake Bush GreenBeans -- the seeds in this patch have not sprouted yet.)

Duck Exodus PART 2
"Said Duck" was injured a few weeks ago by a snapping turtle. So he moved to the chicken house / pen to be showered (to keep the wound clean) and then to have medicated ointment applied 2x per day. His injury finally healed and most of his feathers finally began to grow back. He has a bit of "scabbing" left, but was in good shape again. So -- at long last -- he was returned to the pond with his friends.
The 3 Amigos were VERY happy to see "said duck" again -- or perhaps they were happy because he brought several humans with pockets full of oats ?? Who knows !! There was a lot of quacking and swooshing of tail feathers -- and the 4 Amigos have been swimming round the pond together ever since. What a happy ending !!

On the side of the shed is last year's Herb Garden (inside railroad ties) -- this year it is the MINT garden.

And on the back side of the shed is the freshly tilled and amended Strawberry Patch -- no plants yet.

Here is the finished Strawberry Patch -- covered in newspaper, and soaked. Then plants were inserted in holes -- and then the whole area was mulched with straw.

The Strawberry plants look so much better -- they had been starting to wilt a bit in their pots.

A close up of one of the Strawberry plants.

We have all had a grand time working on the garden together -- everyone worked hard and worked as a team. Even DadToCherubs pitched in a bit, when it wasn't too hot or too muddy. (HA !) It seems nearly impossible to believe that we have gotten SO many BIG projects completed in so short a time (it has just been 2 weeks since Soccer ended, and we really started working on things around here). The children have been fantastic about diligently working on the gardens almsot every afternoon -- they have worked on each step of the projects / processes with great pleasure. And OH MY the Botany "lessons" have been pouring out all through every step -- Charlotte Mason would be so pleased (Narration at it's finest, for sure !).

Now -- on to the Flower Beds.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

They're Coming !

Last fall, we gave our 15 chickens to some dear friends. Our original thought was that we did not want to raise chickens any longer because we had planned to travel a lot more. And we had been raising Bantam breeds (mixed breeds) so those teeny-tiny eggs were a bit of a challenge for our large family. We had to use 30+ to make a breakfast of scrambled eggs. YIKES !!

Well, rising gas prices have changed our plans for traveling significantly -- and food prices and food recalls are motivating us to work towards raising more of our own food that is less expensive and safer / healthier for comsumption.

So -- a batch of new chicks has been ordered for Beck's Bounty.

A Dominique Hen

We ordered 25 Dominiques (our egg laying stock) -- they are considered a "heritage" breed, and not long ago were quite in danger of disappearing entirely from the "chicken world" as people were / are opting to raise the standardized breeds instead (sexlinks, rhode island reds, leghorns, bantams, arachanas, etc). Although we planned to raise a "heritage" breed, there are more than a few to choose from. So, we did quite a lot of "homework" before selecting THIS breed ---the Dominiques are supposed to be quite sturdy and hardy, are reportedly more disease resistant, and are rated to be prolific layers even in wintertime. The Dominiques are supposed to have a good disposition (neither the hens nor the roosters are "uppity", which is quite important when there are occassionally children tending to them), and they are good for meat and eggs. Also the reasearch shows that they make great mothers (usually).

Besides .... just look at her (the photo above) ... isn't she simply lovely !?! ?

The day-old peeps should arrive in approximately a few weeks, so in the mean time we will begin to get things ready for them. We need to set up the "play pen" (our name for the box with the heat lamp that the chicks will need inside our house for the first few weeks), and then will begin to build new nest boxes for our Chicken House so as to have a more efficient set-up for eggs. Plus we have to do a bit of pen maintenence. (Our chickens cannot free-range here as there are too many farm dogs and wild barn cats that would most certainly eat them. Too bad !! We love free-range eggs.) Then, all we will have left to do is wait until the chicks arrive, and then care for them until they are ready to go outside.

More information about this lovely breed is available here:

We are hoping that our Poultry Project will also contribute to our "freezer", so we have also ordered 5 cockrels with the current chick order. These are so we can "learn" and "practice" butchering those (5) before we order more (thanks to a friend and her mother who will serve as teachers - thanks SS) . It would be terrible to have MANY roosters running about AFTER we decide that "freezer" chickens are just not a project we can handle, right ?? That would be awful indeed !! Our HOPE (before experience, of course) is to butcher 50-75+ chickens for the freezer this fall when the temperatures begin to drop. But of course, all of that depends on whether or not our family can "handle" the butchering process after working to process the 5 cockrels currently on order. We shall see how it all works out. (The freezer chicks can supposedly be butchered at roughly 10-12 weeks old -- so, we will know in plenty of time if we want to order more chicks bound for the freezer later this summer / fall.)

We will post some photos when the peeps arrive ....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Garden & Yard Update

When a person shops for plants in the pouring rain and inclement weather, getting soaked through and chilled, it is very clear that she MIGHT have a "problem" .... HA ! (But not ME - I was just taking advantage of the available time that I had to get this shopping done. Ummm hummmm. I was being efficient, not "crazy". Yep !!)

Yesterday afternoon (in the cold pouring rain with no crowds, no lines, and plenty of freshly watered plants), I went from nursery to nursery in search of garden plants. I was able to get almost all of the "plants" for our vegetable garden. And I also purchased the rest of the seeds we are going to need, except for the melon seeds. I think there is a "run" on watermelon, cantelope, and honeydew melon seeds .... of the 5 places I visited and the 3 additional placed I called .... there are NO melon seeds to be had. I did manage to find 4 watermelon plants for sale, tucked back in a tray of tomato plants -- but there were no more. So --- I may be forced to mailorder seeds for these plants. I am also unable to find strawberry plants locally, along with the other "small fruit" plants I had hoped to put in this year -- we may have to mailorder those as well. (I hate to mailorder plants and seeds because it is such a "gamble".)

Overnight our big van was filled to the brim with plants -- we had storms coming in last night with a risk of hail, so we thought the plants were safest in the car.

Today is supposed to be near 70 degrees (a cool day by Tennessee "spring" standards) and partly cloudy, and tomorrow is supposed to be near 80 degrees and sunny. So we are going to SEIZE THE (cool) DAY, to plant in this pleasant weather (rather than baking in the heat and sun, getting sunburned, etc). This morning, we will unload all of the plants and water them well. Then, when we have finished with school and have had our lunch, we will start planting. We will have an afternoon of BOTANY (to go along with our science lessons from this year - Apologia Botany). We will review blossom types, leaf types, weed vs plant identification, root types, soil needs, plant spacing, pollinators, and so many of the other "lessons" we have learned this year as we plant our garden for what we hope will be (eventually) a bountiful harvest. And by the end of today, our Garden To-Do List will look like this (below).

One quick note about a beautiful little family-owned nursery that I visited yesterday -- there is a sign near their "counter" that says: YOUR HUSBAND CALLED. HE SAYS THAT YOU CAN BUY ANYTHING YOU WANT. (HA HA HA !!) I should have known that I was in BIG TROUBLE when I saw that sign ! It was at this lovely little nursery that I happened upon some very AGGRESSIVE perennial flowers in their green houses. These plants reached out with their stems and leaves and grabbed me as I walked past, physically overpowering me, and demanding that I put them into my wagon. In the interest of peace, I placed them in my wagon, secretly planning to put them back later. Well, when it came time to pay for my vegetable plants (the plants I was SUPPOSED to be buying), these aggressive perennials overpowered me again, first forcing me to buy them, and then proceeding to muscle themselves into my van between the pepper plants and the tomato plants. So -- a warning to all -- beware of the perennials (black eyed susans, various types of coneflowers, and several other co-conspirators) !! They are very forceful this year -- plotting and conspiring against innocent shoppers. (HA !) Well ------ that's my story and I am sticking to it.

SilverQueen Corn (first planting of 4)
Green Bean seeds (planting 1)
Cucumber seeds
Pea seeds
Pea seeds (planting 2)
Small patch of leaf-type lettuce (non-bittering in heat, so they say)
Yellow Crookneck Squash seeds
Zucchini seeds
Green Bean seeds (planting 1 - Blue Lake Bush)
Peaches & Cream Corn seed (planting 2)
Peaches & Cream Corn seed (planting 2)
Silver Queen Corn seed (planting 2)
Cantelope seed (planting 1)
Cantelope seed (planting 2)
Honeydew Melon seed (planting 1)
Honeydew melon seed (planting 2)
Watermelon seed (planting 1 - icebox size)
Pumpkin seeds (planting 1 - jack-o-lantern, sugar, and large pumpkins - to be sown in July)

Tomato plants (x 48)
Pepper plants (x 20 total - bell, jalapeno, banana)
Eggplant plants (x 8)
Watermelon plants (x 6 - large type watermelon)
Herb: Oregano (x 6)
Yellow Crookneck Squash plants (x 4)
Zucchnin plants (x 4)
Herb: Lavendar
Herb: more Lavendar
Herb: Cat Mint
Herb: Lemon Balm
Herb: Parsley (x 8)
Herb: Chives (x 8)
Herb: Basil (x 6)
Herb: Thyme (x 6)
Blueberry bushes (2 of each; 3 varieties)
18 Everbearing Strawberry plants
more Strawberries (50-60 more plants; plot cleared and prepared)
Brambles (several each of Blackberry & Red Raspberry)

Black-Eyed Susans
Coneflowers (dark purple)
Coneflowers (traditional light purple)
Coneflowers (White)
Coneflowers (Magenta)
Blanket Flowers (red & gold blossoms)
Crazy Daisies
Coneflowers (Fuschia)
Shasta Daisies
Achillea Flowers (gold)
Butterfly Bushes (multiple)
Cat Mint
Bee Balm (many more)
Knockout Roses
Canterbury Bells
Evergreen "screen" (multiple - tall evergreen "trees"; rapid growing; privacy and wind / dust block)
Fruit Trees (multiple varieties of apple, peach, pear, cherry - probably to be planted next fall)
Dogwood Trees (pink & white varieties - to be planted next Fall)

** Notes Concerning Flowers: With the exception of 1 small flower bed and 4 planters, I ONLY plant perennial variety flowers. I love the "Cottage Garden" look as they all blend together through the years -- I love the variety of colors and textures and heights, and love that they are "self-sowing" and eventually get spread enough that they choke out most weeds themselves. The blend of everything reminds me of the Impressionist's works featuring gardens. All of our family members enjoy watching Birds, Hummingbirds, and Butterflies visit our garden all through the spring, summer, and fall; so we generally plant varieties of flowers that attract these lovely creatures to our garden.

May 20th Update: We did it !! Every single plant and seed we bought has been planted. HOORAY !! We had hoped to get it all done Saturday and Sunday. Saturday worked out as planned, but Sunday was mostly rainy here so we had to wait until Monday to finish up with our planting. (Our sunburned and achey bodies probably appreciated the break.)

The soil was re-tilled, and rows were marked. Then the rows were planted, the peppers and tomatoes were staked, the eggplant plants were caged. And finally every row and bed was mulched with straw. After that we mulched the melon and cucumber hills with "mats" of rotten hay.

The finishing touch to the vegetable garden was finished on Monday evening -- the "paths" between the rows were lined with landscape fabric. We do this to ensure that the children do not walk in the planted areas -- we ONLY walk on the black paths when inside the garden. Oh, and it also helps keep the weeds down between the rows too. But for a garden shared with several enthusiastic gardeners-in-training also known as children, marked paths are very helpful. (Helpful Hint: Too many landscape staples is NOT helpful though as they ahve to be removed before tilling for next season's garden - just a few is all that is needed for "paths" because eventually the warm wet landscape fabric more or less "sticks" to the dirt below.)

There was much excitement today in the garden .... our cucumbers (seeds) have begun to come up !! We can see tiny green leaves poking out of the top of the mounds. It is VERY exciting.

After lining the paths, our last project on Monday evening was the strawberry patch. We soaked the soil well, and then covered the whole patch with newspaper . Then we soaked the whole area again. The newspaper is to help the soil which is dry and seems healthy, but is VERY week-prone, as it will discourage weed growth as it breaks down, and will help retain moisture in the soil. The benefit is that the roots of the strawberry plants can easily break through the newspaper barrier, and that the barrier will soon "break down" (unlike lining the bed with landscape fabric which is more or less permenant). We put the plants in (we only have 18 so far, of the 60-75 we want to have), and then mulched the patch with straw. After watering well, the plants looked quite happy. The newspaper / straw idea for the strawberry patch was found online in articles written about strawberry farming .... now, we are not farming strawberries, but if it works for them, it is our hope that it will work for our small patch. Time will tell.

Before calling it a day, we ran the sprinklers on all of the new plantings -- the veggie garden, the strawberry patch, and the flower beds.

There is nothing to do now except water, pray, and wait .... until it is time to put in the second plantings in a few weeks time. (and rest, of course)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'll Say It Again ....

I just love these Victory Garden advertisements from World War II .... they are inspiring .... they encourage everyone to do their part .... they foster independence rather than dependence on the government .... sunshine ... fresh air ... exercise .... working together as a family to make a team ... eat fresh ... eat healthy ....

So many things our Nation's families NEED .....

Many of our local plant and garden supply sellers have said that it seems more people are planting vegetable gardens this year than in many years past ----- a sign of the times ?? Hummmmmmm.

What a great message this is !!

With all of the supposed shortages plus the recalls and unknown ingredients .... this one seems VERY appropriate these days ....

It seems that gardening might even be beneficial for our society in the strengthening of our families -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Our food is fighting HIGH PRICES and INFLATION and so much more ......

OK - just as soon as the rain stops, I am going out to plant some more plants and seeds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Does The Garden Grow ?

Well, nothing is growing quite yet. Things were so busy with soccer and school, we had time only to prepare the garden. But yesterday, we started planting ... a bit late, but better than never. This year we are also trying to stagger our "harvests" a bit, so that we can get some food put away (freezer, and maybe some canning) ... and so that we are not giving away bushel baskets of melons and squash and cucumbers because we do not know what to do with it all. HA !!


Corn (first planting of 4)

Green Bean seeds (plot 1)

Cucumber seeds

Pea seeds (plot 1)

Small Patch of leaf-type Lettuce (non-bittering in heat, so they say)

Crookneck Yellow Squash seeds

Zucchini seeds

Green Bean seeds (plot 2)

Pea seeds (plot 2)

Corn seed (planting 2)

Corn seed (planting 3)

Corn seed (planting 4)

Cantelope seed (planting 1)

Cantelope seed (planting 2)

Watermelon seed (planting 1)

Watermelon seed (planting 2)

We had hoped to get much of our remaining "seed list" planted today after we finish with school, but it is raining and the garden is WET (and I prefer not to have 6 wet muddy children plus 2 muddy wet dogs walking in and out of the house - what a party pooper I am, huh ??). So, we will try to get them in tomorrow.

And on Friday and Saturday we will be buying our "plants" and setting them out this weekend.


Tomato plants (48)

Pepper plants (green bell, jalepeno, banana)

Eggplant plants



more Lavendar





Strawberries (currently clearing a bed for them)

Brambles (preferably thornless - raspberry, blackberry, etc)

So, that should keep us busy for a while. And it should keep our tummies pretty satisfied later this summer too.

In between veggie (and fruit) gardening, we need to add more Butterfly - Hummingbird perinneals to our flower beds and get them mulched.

(** Thanks Harmony Art Mom for the strike-through instructions. It worked !)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

This week's edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival has been posted this morning. Here is the link: CM Blog Carnival-Yosemite Edition

And I wanted to include this message from the Hostess of the CM Blog Carnival:
I want to thank all of you who took the time to submit blog entries and photos. This edition is full of a variety of interesting and pertinent topics. Please take a few minutes to enjoy reading the carnival and then share with your readers the blog address so they can read and benefit too.As always, you can start writing and submitting entries for the next carnival right away.
Here is the link: CM Blog Carnival Entry Form
Thanks again,Barb-Harmony Art Mom

2008-2009 School Plans

Next year is going to be a very heavy school year, in many ways.

First, we will have six "official" students --- one “official” Kindergartener, (said with tears in my eyes), two elementary level students (one Lower Grammar in grade level 2-3, and one Upper Grammar in grade 4), two middle school level students (Dialectic - both are grade range 6-7 but are advanced students), and our first high school student (Rhetoric - 9th grade - Freshman).

Second, at first view our list of “to-do’s” is quite extensive which makes it seem rather intimidating. Our TENTATIVE list for our next school year (2008-2009) is below. I do not believe it is as daunting as it appears. Clearly we have a lot planned that we feel we HAVE to do, and there are also more than a few studies which are things we WANT to do. (please leave any suggestions for the undecided items in the comments --- they are still VERY undecided, and I would love suggestions !!)

One major detail that we are missing: We like to begin every school day with a time of Prayer, Bible Study, Devotion, and Scripture Memory together as a family. And so far our "courses" or materials or plans for this time are yet undecided. We also use this time together to focus a bit of attention on Habit Training and Character Development, and this area is yet undecided as well. (Recommendations and suggestions are very welcome !)

Cherub 6: Kindergarten (Lower Grammar Level)
Beginning Reading: Abeka's Handbook For Reading, McGuffey's Readers.
Penmanship: Begin Handwriting Without Tears printing workbooks.
Math: Saxon Math 1.
Literature: AO Year 1 selections; some TOG Year 1 Lower Grammar selections.
Science: some Apologia Zoology 1 (done with Cherub 4 and Cherub 5)
History: some TOG - Year 1 - Lower Grammar level (done with Cherub 4)
Art Technique: Drawing and sketching from Nature (done with family)
Art Appreciation: Coordinating artist studies within TOG Year 1.
Nature Study: Nature Journals.
Poetry: AO Year 1 selections.
Music Study: AO rotation.
P.E.: Continue Swimming Instruction (Winter Swim Team - Aug to May - practice only); Cross Country Running (training and conditioning only !). Tennis (instruction summer 2008; playing as able).

Cherub 5: Grade 2/3 (Lower Grammar Level)
Reading: continue with Abeka Handbook for Reading and McGuffey's Readers.
Penmanship: continue Handwriting Without Tears printing program.
Spelling: (begin in January) Spelling Wisdom 1
Math: Saxon Math 3
Literature: AO Year 3 selections; TOG Year 1 Lower Grammar selections.
Science: Apologia Zoology 1 (done with Cherub 4 and Cherub 6).
History: TOG Year 1 Lower Grammar Level (with Cherub 6).
Art Technique: Drawing and watercolor painting (done with family).
Art Appreciation: Coordinating Artists within TOG Year 1.
Nature Study: Nature Journal.
Poetry: AO Year 3 poetry rotation.
Music Appreciation: AO rotation.
P.E.: Fall U-10 soccer (?), Winter Swim Team (competitive - August to May), training and conditioning for Cross Country running (Goals: 1 mile children’s race March 2009, 3-mile children’s race April 2009); Tennis (lessons summer 2008; playing weekly or biweekly.)

Cherub 4: Grade 4 (Upper Grammar Level)
Reading: continue with McGuffey's readers; practice Handbook for Reading charts.
Penmanship: begin Handwriting Without Tears Cursive program.
Spelling: Complete Spelling Wisdom 1, and begin Spelling Wisdom 2.
Grammar & Composition: First Language Lessons (Wise) OR Serl's Primary Language Lessons. Story Starters (beginning composition)
Math: Saxon 5/4 (may change to Teaching Textbooks 5 ?).
Literature: some AO selections Yr 3/4. TOG Year 1 Lower and/or Upper Grammar selections.
Science: Apologia Zoology 1 (with Cherub 5 and 6).
History: TOG Year 1 Lower and/or Upper Grammar.
Art Technique: sketching nature and beginning watercolor (with family).
Art Appreciation: Coordinating Artists within TOG Year 1.
Nature Study: Nature Journal; AO Nat. Sci. Yr. 3 - 4 books ?; Kamana Naturalist Course 1.
Poetry: AO Yr. 4 poetry rotation.
Music Appreciation: AO Rotation
P.E.: Winter Swim Team (competitive - Aug to May); training and conditioning for Cross Country running (goal: 3 mile Children's race spring 2009); Tennis (lessons summer 2008; play weekly or biweekly).

Cherub 3: Grade 6++++ (Dialectic Level)
Spelling: Spelling Wisdom 3
Vocabulary: undecided (to focus on root, prefix, suffix "words" in Latin / Greek).
Grammar: undecided.
Composition: TOG Year 1 - Dialectic level. IEW-SWI Level B.
Math: Teaching Textbooks - finish grade 6 and begin grade 7.
Literature: HEO 9 selections (free reading); TOG Dialectic level selections. (Supplementing with advanced Ancient History and Literature titles from SL, WP, BF prn).
Science: Apologia General Science (with Cherub 2).
History: TOG Year 1, Dialectic level (including all additional "optional" History and Literature readings prn; also SL and other selections prn).
Art Technique: sketching nature; continue with watercolor; begin oil painting ?
Art Appreciation: Coordinating artists with TOG Year 1.
Natural Science: Nature Journal; Kamana Naturalist Program 1; AO & HEO Natural Science readings ?
Poetry: AO Year 8 poetry rotation.
Music Appreciation: AO rotation.
P.E.: Winter Swim Team (competitive - August to May); training and conditioning for Cross Country Running (goals: 3K and 5K children’s races - Spring 2009); Tennis (lessons Summer 2008; play weekly or more).
Elective: learning to sew (materials undecided); beginning woodworking (materials undecided).

Cherub 2: Grade 7+ (Dialectic Level)
Spelling: Spelling Wisdom 3.
Vocabulary: undecided (focus on root, prefix, suffix "words" in Latin / Greek)
Grammar: undecided.
Composition: TOG Year 1 - Dialectic level. IEW-SWI Level B.
Math: Teaching Textbooks Grade 7 (will possibly begin TT 8 mid-year).
Literature: some HEO Year 8/9 selections; TOG Dialectic selections (including "optional" Dialectic readings prn; supplement extra Free Reading from advanced SL Ancient History and Literature titles prn.
Science: Apologia General Science (with Cherub 3).
History: TOG Year 1 - Dialectic level.
Art Technique: sketching from nature; possibly begin oil painting mid-year ? (with family)
Art Appreciation: Coordinating Artists from TOG Year 1.
Nature Study: Nature Journal; Kamana Naturalist Course 1.
Poetry: AO Year 8 poetry rotation.
Music: AO rotation.
P.E.: Winter Swim Team (competitive - Aug to May); training and conditioning for Cross Country running (goal: children’s 5K race - Spring 2009); Tennis (lessons summer 2008; play weekly or bi-weekly).
Health: undecided.
Electives: INTENSE learning to sew (materials undecided); The Joy Of Photography 1 & 2 (with Cherub 1); study of Organic Gardening.

Cherub 1: Grade 9 (Rhetoric Level)
Grammar: undecided
Composition: TOG - Rhetoric level. IEW-SWI - Level B.
Vocabulary: undecided (focus on root, prefix, and suffix "words" in Latin / Greek).

SAT / ACT Preparation: undecided
Math: Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1; (possible - Math U See Stewardship program).
Literature: TOG Rhetoric level readings; "optional" TOG Rhetoric readings prn. Supplement as needed with HEO and SL history and literature selections.
Science: Apologia Biology 1 (possibly begin Chemistry in January or early in Term 3 if ready ?).
History / Geography : TOG Year 1 - Rhetoric level.
Church History / Theological Studies: TOG Year 1 - Rhetoric level.
Worldview Studies: TOG Year 1 - Rhetoric level.
Art Technique: Continue nature sketching; possibly begin oil painting ?
Art Appreciation: Coordinating artists with TOG Year 1.
Nature Study: Nature Journal; Kamana Naturalist 1 (and possibly 2).
Music Appreciation: AO rotation; continue "self-teaching" with keyboard; possible formal Guitar lessons.
P.E.: Winter Swim Team (competitive - Aug to May); training and conditioning for Cross Country running (goal: 5K race Spring 2009); Tennis (lessons Summer 2008; play weekly or biweekly).
Health: Red Cross First Aid & CPR course (as offered though Fire Department / EMS program).
Electives: Computer Use (word, internet, excel, power-point, etc); The Joy of Photography 1 & 2 (with Cherub 2); VERY basic sewing skills (life-skills); begin woodworking (materials undecided); study of Organic Gardening (consider Master Gardener Certification program at UT for next summer ?); Swimmers LifeGuard Certification (begin self-studies this winter; take formal course when available late winter - early spring for Lifeguard Certification).


** Our ESSENTIAL Homeschool Organizer **

(how we manage to keep track of everything and move along smoothly in all of our studies !)

The Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer

= Tapestry of Grace Year 1 (Ancient)

AO = Ambleside Online

SL = Sonlight

WP = Winter Promise

BF = Beautiful Feet

IEW = Institute for Excellence In Writing

SWI = Student Writing Intensive (offered by IEW)

Apologia Sciences:

(Highschool) Biology 1:

(Elem.) General Science & Zoology 1:

Kamana Naturalist Studies:

Teaching Textbooks Math:

Saxon Math:

Spelling Wisdom:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Special Birthday ...

Today, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my FAVORITE sister !!

(She is 30 years old today, however if you ask her she will say she is only 29 and holding. Hummmmmm.)
Happy Mother's Day

Friday, May 09, 2008

What's Going On Here ?

Spring is here, and all things GREEN are singing praises to Our Lord.

Our garden is tilled and is awaiting plants and seeds .... our flower beds are weeded and the perinneals we planted last year are coming up day by day. Our roses are putting on a spectacular show this year -- each is an explosion of blooms.

On (this) Saturday, both of our soccer teams will finish their seasons. We will follow our last game with an End-Of-Season party of pizza, and will give the players their trophies. It was a great season, but our family will be happy for CALM days ahead without the need to rush to the park for practices and games.

And what are we going to do with all of these free afternoons, once soccer is finished ?? Well, our first task is to get our garden planted -- corn, tomatoes, green beans, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, cantelopes, watermelons. And after our garden is "set to rights", we are going to gradually begin painting each room in our house -- I painted the kitchen and the boys bedrooms last fall, but we have yet to paint the main rooms (school room, living room, front foyer and hall, girls room, etc) since moving in a year ago. In between "tasks", we are planning some nice day and weekend outings locally --- into the mountains, Nature Hikes, to the lake, picnics, and more. We really hope to begin tennis lessons before it get TOO hot, and the children are anxious to begin their Runner's Training plans.

We are now in the last leg of our school year -- we should finish up at the end of June. HOORAY !! We will take July off, and perhaps the first week of August, and then will begin our next homeschool year.

I suppose there will be few "Lazy Dog Days" of summer here at Beck's Bounty, but we are looking foward to some restful relaxing days in between all that we have planned for this summer.