01 October 2014

U...

...is for Under...


..a two day old elephant protected by its mother.  We were so lucky to visit Whipsnade Zoo at exactly the right time to see him.  It was wonderful to watch the herd, comprised of his aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters protecting him in the paddock.  I have always had mixed views about Zoos.  When you see animals pacing backwards and forwards in their restricting and dull pens.  I only saw one animal do this in one pen at this Zoo and I saw very little evidence that it goes on in other pens, they are all huge and full of trees and other greenery.  We have watched many wildlife documentaries with our children and learnt loads.  This was the first time that they actually saw for real many of the animals that they have learnt so much about, it also may be the only place they see many of these animals.  Are you a fan of Zoos or do you wish we didn't have them round the world?

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

29 September 2014

Slow Living

It is always lovely to look back and reflect on what you have done over the previous weeks or months, taking stock, observing changes and celebrating achievements.  Even better if you can join together and see what others have been doing too in their part of the world, blogging is a wonderful way of making the world a smaller place.  Christine over a Slow Living Essentials started this wonderful reflection and has now passed the baton onto Linda at Greenhaven for the monthly linkup  here are mine for September...


...nourish in my part of the world September is the month of transition from Summer to Autumn although on some days the weather would have us think otherwise.  We have had very cool days, mixed in with bright warm sunny ones.  Our food is following this transition as we are still eating salad, all still growing in the garden, but there are days we need a hot lunch and soup is what I serve. Using up some of the glut of courgettes and cucumbers from the garden I making soups with both, the courgette recipe can be found here.  I have also made a couple of bakes this month using ingredients from our veg bag which we have started to have delivered again.  It has been pleasing to make these up as I go along using ingredients that I always hope will complement each other, the proof is always in the eating......all gone at the end of the meal.


...prepare for me Autumn is about preserving, preparing my home and kitchen for the cooler months to come.  I have been busy with Rosehip Syrup, freezing fruit picked from the garden and foraging, Dill Pickles and making fruit leather.  I am going to write another preserving post this autumn so watch this space!

...reduce in April our washing machine died after a sterling service for fourteen years of use we kept various parts of it to reuse and sell on.  It had two large springs amongst its parts which we have my husband has put to great use this month.  We live in a windy area, we are at about 300m above sea level and surrounded by open fells, the wind blows off the hills straight into our garden.  We have a large fruit cage in our garden to protect our fruit bushes from birds, the cage itself is tied down to stop it taking off but in a high wind it often looks like it might.  We have experimented with various different methods for tethering it the ropes getting thicker and thicker as time goes on.  It is now tethered with climbing tape and the springs from the washing machine, we are now waiting for the high winds to arrive to put it to the test......

...green  I have not used bought shampoo or conditioner for nearly three years now,  I was forced to give them up due to the ingredients effecting my skin.  I have been using bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar during that time varying the quantities to find what worked for me.  I get my hair cut about every six months and have to have a fair bit cut off each time as the ends are very dry.  I could of course blame the bicarb and vinegar but I knew it wasn't that.  I take the children swimming every week, I get in the pool with them and my hair gets wet in the pool absorbing all the pool chemicals which are really difficult to wash out.  Over the summer we use our village pool which uses very little in the way of chemicals and my hair is totally different as a result.  I decided I needed to do something about the destruction that the pool chemicals were having to my hair.  I found a few methods that you could use and have tried one of them at the end of this month.  All the advice suggested wetting your hair before getting in the pool which apparently inhibits the absorption of the chemicals into your hair and washing it before it dries, both of which I did.  The crucial bit tho' is that I took some Vitamin C powder, yes you did read that correctly, to use as a rinse after getting out of the pool.  I dissolved a teaspoon of powder in a pint of water and poured and rubbed this into my hair to get rid of the smell.  After one attempt it does seem to have worked, my hair feels as it did in the summer it remains to be seen as to whether it works in the long term, I do hope so.

I mentioned making my own toothpaste last month several of you asked about it.  I am using eggshells as I have a constant supply, I also thought I was going to need to make some more this month but I have it seems to go further than I would have expected. I guess you can't see into a tube of toothpaste to know exactly how much is left!


...grow despite the autumn encroaching my garden continues to produce food for us to eat.  We are still harvesting potatoes, courgettes, cucumber, salad leaves and herbs.  The french beans have pretty much finished and the broad beans probably have one meal left on them.  I harvested a good crop of garlic, this surprised me as it was sown into the wettest, soggiest soil back in January and honestly thought they would mostly rot.  I just need to get them dried now.  I also harvested my onions, they were the best crop ever, in that they all grew but most were the size of a golf ball or smaller.  I think perhaps I didn't water them enough.  I am going to pickle the smallest ones, I know that you are meant to use pickling onions for this but I don't fancy peeling and chopping a dozen onions each time I need some for a meal!


...create I have been knitting quite a bit this month as I had a week away which gave me lots of time. I have knitted up two pairs of slippers, a hat for my youngest, the shawl I started last month, and I am slowly working my way down the sleeves of my shalom.  I am now ready to cast on the pattern that I mentioned in 'discover' last month, it could be some time before that happens as it is way down the queue.  I cut out some pieces for some sewing up a month or so ago which have sat where they are for weeks, I have been working on our weekly rhythms this month but haven't worked out where sewing fits into that as yet.  I also have two other projects that I have bought material for that need time spending on them too, Christmas will soon be on us so I need to fit it all in somehow.


...discover earlier in the year I spent quite a bit of time finding out the dates of various festivals and celebrations from different cultures and religions as thought it would be interesting to try and include some of them into our learning.  This hasn't happened much this year as I have not been focused enough on them, but this autumn we have observed a few already.  The Autumn Equinox was at the end of September and it was interesting to read up and learn about this festival and how it has been celebrated in the past.  We have put our own stamp on it with music, dancing, and enjoying food, always a good combination.

...enhance despite needing to take a step back from this for a while I managed to fit in a weekend for a local guide group assessing a duke of edinburgh expedition for them.  It is always a pleasure and often gives me a few hours to myself something I don't get very often.



...enjoy we spent a week visiting my parents this month.  They live far enough away that it is not possible to visit for the day and a weekend feels so short.  We travelled on the train this time, the children are old enough for me to do this on my own now as they can carry some luggage and get on and off the trains unaided.  I still felt like a donkey with all the luggage I did need to carry up and down the stairs to get to our platforms.  The children thought it was a great adventure.  We travel a fair bit by train but not usually that far.  We had a lovely week away, it is always a good rest for me, the only holiday when I don't have to think about food, but I still help with the cooking of course!

26 September 2014

Aftermath


There are some world events that are difficult for those who were not alive at the time to comprehend.  I wrote of this last month after reading Citadel by Kate Mosse a book set during WWII.  What anyone witnessed or lived through at that time I cannot begin to understand along with the continued effect in the years that followed.  I finished a book this month which tackles this subject.  It is the third book in a trilogy, a common theme amongst my reading of late.  The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons follows a young couple as they forge a new life in the US after the war.  The first two books in the trilogy, The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and Alexander are set during the war and follow the couple during those years.  I have been amazed that some of the reviews I have read about this last book criticise it for 'spoiling' the relationship between the main characters.  How anyone could live through the events such as they have, and most likely millions of others despite this being a work of fiction, and not be effected by I am baffled by these comments.  This book takes this subject head on and deals with it very well and quite believably, it is an area that is not much written about as few wish to talk about it or discuss it, a fact which has most likely led to further problems in itself.

Hace you ever had that feeling, when someone has given you some bad news, that the carpet has been pulled right out from under you feet and you are watching the world carry on whilst you seems to have temporarily grounded.  This is the central premise of 70% Acrylic 30% Wool By Viola Da Grado a book which has nothing to do with knitting.  The central character, Camilla, learns at the start of the book that her father has died.  Her mother in her grief ceases to talk or care for herself so Camilla, who had just left for university returns to care for her.  They communicate with looks and body language.  Camillia slowly unravels (the only parallel with the title) she meets Wen with whom she falls in love, he teaches her Chinese but is unable to reciprocate.  The relationship unravels her further until in the end she has seemingly changed places with her mother, who has found a way to move on.  Despite its gloomy and slightly depressing nature I really enjoyed this book, it is not meant to be a work of joy.  It was marred by one, unexpected, reason.  This book is written in Italian and has been translated by an American Publisher.  The book is set in Leeds, a Northern English town.  The 'english' is American-English which I have nothing against but it jarred for me in a book set in England.

Another premise that I find it difficult to comprehend the effect of is to live in a country where what you read, write and watch is monitored and censored.  Twilight of the Eastern Gods by Ismail Kadare tackles this very subject.  Although a work of fiction it is based on the authors own experience as a student in Russia at the Gorky Institute of World Literature, I had heard of this institution before I read this book although I cannot for the life of me remember where I came across it.  Whilst he was a student there Boris Pasternak, a Russian citizen, is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel Doctor Zhivago.  It had not been published in Russia as it was deemed anti Soviet and a rejection of socialist realism.  I picked this book up in the Library as I thought it sounded interesting. Was it?  Honestly?  Not really, I found it rather disappointing.

The books I pick up to read in the library, where most of my reading material seems to come from these days, are usually chosen from those are closest to the children's section or the books near to where you return books where my library has a quick choice and a new section.  The last book I chose from the new section was one that I thought I would read this month but I had to return it before I had read much as it had been placed on request by someone else, how dare they!  A quick choice book turned out to be one that I had read about on other blogs recently.  Books are a very personal thing, don't you think?  Like the clothes we wear, the films we watch or choose not to, the places we call home, what one person likes will not be liked by another.  I love to read about what others are reading, it is often where I discover a favourite author has a new book out, but don't make a note of the titles, usually, as I prefer to choose books by picking them up and reading a bit first.  The final book I have read this month is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  I haven't read a book so fast in ages.   It is compelling, gripping and steeped in history.  I loved the insight into 19th century life in Iceland, harsh though it was.  I loved the fact that it is based on an actual event, though the narrative is mostly fictional.  It is both gentle and harsh at the same time.  Wonderful.

I read a lot this month which has surprised me.  Finding myself without a library book to read when finishing Burial Rites I searched my own shelves for something to read.  I have settled on a non fiction book which is likely to be all I read in October, it is a meaty book.  The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge.  I hope to learn a lot.

24 September 2014

T...

...is for Tulip...


...a picture I took earlier this year when the tulips were in flower in my garden.  A sign of spring, an easily recognised and much loved flower.  They originate from Persia where they naturally grow, mountainous areas with a temperate climate.   In the language of flowers they represent elegance, grace, perfect love and a declaration of love depending on what you read.  When my youngest saw these in flower this year she declared that 'they were so beautiful it was breaking her heart right out'.  If you want to grow these wonderful flowers in your own space, now is the time to be sowing the bulbs ready for next Spring.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project.

22 September 2014

Moments...


...this week of...

...happiness a week with my parents,  time with my nephews, travelling by train and feeling relaxed after a long journey, being able to focus on my children more

...sadness not being able to visit my great aunt as she did not feel well enough for visitors, I do hope we can arrange another visit soon

...creating a hat, a rhythm for autumn, a vest, a plan for the week

...reading Twilight of the Eastern Gods by Ismail Kadare, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 228. I am not a Copycat by Ann Bonwill, 229. Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham, 230. Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake, 231. King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, 232. Harris the Hero by Lynne Richards, 233. 234. I want my light on by Tony Ross, 235. The High Hills by Jill Barklem, 236. The Play by Janey Lousie Jones, 237. The Tree by Tim Vyner, 238. The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White by Albie Longstaff, 239. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, 240. Bear's School Day by Stella Blackstone, 241. Where Giant's Hide by Mij Kelly.

...learning about Rhinos, Lemurs, Wolves, Giraffes, Elephants, Animal Sight, Pendulums

...thinking about the people of Scotland

...hoping that I can continue the planning and organising I have done for the last few weeks for the months to come

...looking forward to a visit from friends whom we have not seen for weeks

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*as part of the 300 Picture Books Challenge


I hope you have had a lovely week too......................enjoy the one to come!

19 September 2014

Seeds


Last week we ventured out one afternoon for a spot of foraging.  We were on the hunt for blackberries and managed to pick five pounds worth.  We were also looking for rose hips which we weren't so lucky with either a human or bird had beaten us to it as the bushes were stripped bare, I left the few that hadn't been picked.  In the morning before we went out we did a bit of investigating and reading about fruiting plants. I thought it would be good to show how these plants germinate, flower and fruit and devised a life cycle of the plant, to any botanists reading this who are squirming as I have used the wrong words - please put me straight!  As I was devising my cycle I was struck by how similar it is to the learning that takes place in our house.


As we enter our sixth year of official home education I can hostly say that I am totally comfortable with it.  Of course I have times when I wobble and wonder what I am doing, but don't we all have them whatever path we choose in life?  I love the groups we engage with, the friends we have made, the activities we join in with.  It has been hard work, lonely at times, especially in the early days, but it is always worth it.  A seed is sown by a variety of sources a book, a documentary, a friend, an idea, which germinates a desire to learn more about it, the learning, growth, happens all over the place and from many sources as it flourishes, flowers, it often leads to learning about other things too, pollination, sometimes following unexpected directions on the way, if the learning, fruit, draws to conclusion (usually temporarily) a new seed is then sown.

Our rhythm has also followed this cycle over the years, evolving from ideas that I try out to see what works best for us.  Now that it is September this is a time of year that I often review it and make changes.  The summer is a time for being outside as much as possible, for going away and for our regular commitments stopping for a time, at the end of August I find myself thinking about the rhythm returning as our groups start up again and the weather turning cooler drawing us into our home more.  This summer has felt more chaotic that usual, my voluntary commitments taking over our lives at times and  I have realised this year that, rather than try and keep the same rhythm going for a whole year I should alter it with the seasons, maybe one for autumn and spring, one for winter and one for summer.  That way perhaps I wouldn't feel like I was fighting to stick to the same rhythm all year and our days and weeks would flow better.  I am still learning what ingredients we need to make our rhythm tick and those seeds of learning sowing and germinating.  So as we head into autumn I have started to pull together some ideas.

A day to focus on music, I added this to our rhythm earlier in the year.  I think I need to more focused on what we are doing each week I have ideas to play instruments new and old, learn some new to us songs, try out some clapping rhythms repeating the focus each month.  In the afternoon we attend a singing group with friends which also includes time for a play.  Sadly we won't be attending the afternoon concerts that I discovered earlier this year, they now clash with Forest School!  I had forgotten about them completely when we were rearranging our day earlier this month, you can't do everything!

A day for nature, outside for the afternoon whilst the weather is still good, birdwatching, bike riding, walking or exploring.  The morning spent with some time learning about something we will see or do in the afternoon.  Perhaps with crafts, stories and poems to enhance our learning.  We have been reading the relevant pages from the lovely book Come Out of Doors : A guide of nature lovers by C. D. Dimsdale, it has a short chapter for each week of the year.  This day may change as the Winter and cooler, often wetter, weather sets in.

A day at Forest School.  This is a whole day activity we leave the house soon after breakfast and return in the middle of the afternoon needing some quiet time with a book or maybe a DVD before tea.  Each week we focus on a topic or theme for which each family prepares facts, poems or short stories to share.  We have a book which each family takes home for the week to write up what we have been doing, adding pictures, the shared facts, poems and stories.  We will do our preparation for this as part of our nature day, most likely making it our focus during the Winter months.

A day at home to rest, tend to the home, garden and ourselves, maybe invite a friend(s) over to play in the afternoon.  I have yet to decide the focus of this day.  I am thinking it should be different each week maybe science, craft, art and something else rotating during the month.  I will see what we feel like doing and what I have had time to prepare.....

A day in our local town, our food shop, a visit to the library to change our books and our weekly swim.  Taking the children swimming regularly has done wonders for their confidence and skills, eighteen months ago neither of my children could swim now they can both swim a length of the pool unaided and jump in the deep end (3m) without fear, but plenty of caution!  One of our local groups sometimes meets on this day and we will join them if they are doing something that takes our fancy.

Interspersed with all this will be lots of play, drawing, maybe some writing, probably some maths.  these all usually just happen and take whatever form the children choose, perhaps doing mental arithmetic in the bath............On the days we are at home for lunch this is the conclusion of our morning, taking our time to enjoy our food together at the table.  We finish the meal with the chapter from our current book I read to them and a poem relating to the season or the days focus, before heading out for the afternoon.

At some point each evening, before bed I tell the children about what we are going to be doing the following day.  If we are going out what time for my eldest, in simpler terms for my youngest, what we need to sort out before we go and when we are likely to be back home.  I find this gives them a chance to think about what they might do and when the next day.  When they go to bed I talk with each of them about their day, asking them what the best thing for them has been and telling them mine, bringing the day to a close.

I am still working on how to fit in all the bits that keep our home ticking over like the laundry, cleaning and hoovering.  The last two need more attention at this time of year when we are in the house more.  The garden also needs some time spending on it to get it ready to overwinter, preparing for next spring.  Whatever we end up doing it is always a matter of balance, of not having too much time out of the home or in it,  of not being too busy, of not having too much structure and maybe most importantly of being mindful that if something is not working then it is not a failure, perhaps a change is needed.  Home education really is a way of life.

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The seeds are wild carrot plants, all in the same patch.  I was struck by their beauty and the different colours of each seed head, I am guessing as a result of different stages?




17 September 2014

S...

...is for Swing...



...a tree swing, the best kind in my children's book, it is one of these inscribed with the words Up and Away.  This is one of many in the grounds of a local castle that we love to visit, used by adults and children alike............

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project