what’s eight weeks?

I have said it before and I am sure I will state it again:

I could never live anywhere that did not have the four seasons.

I am too restless for a mere two.

Summer in the Northeast is pretty much ten weeks.

Ten weeks of guaranteed heat, of no hectic school schedule.

That is what summer is for me: not feeling cold, not having school.

That first week school is out and the one prior to it revving back up again; don’t count.

Bumping up next to school demands sullies it.

So that leaves eight weeks.

Eight weeks as wide and welcome as blue skies over a waving meadow.

I have the added blessing of working for a public school so that means no work schedule as well.  I am a substitute teacher so it also means no pay.  We just call hot dogs and watermelon diner about twice a week and drink less wine to cope.

To help pay for our beach vacation we took the day after school was let out I worked nearly full time in June.  To many, that is like saying: I got out of bed in the morning in June.  So what?  But with four daughters still at home, a home I have to keep in order or I turn into captain scary crazy pants, I only allow myself to work part time since going back to work.

Ergo: working everyday all during the week drained the life force out of me.  And of course, keeping in how this world always works, this June had several extra stressers thrown in.  My continual motion, my ceaseless brain trying to organize, my seized-up then sputtered out Adrenalin glands, were all functionally poorly by the end.

Our vacation of four days in Maryland was very much needed, but I still had residual out-of-wack inner man issues.  I felt horrible for my struggling to relax and enjoy when everyone else was.  I should naturally too. The accusation of:

“There are billions of people right now who could not even fathom what a vacation is, much less have the luxury of escaping a beautiful home to travel to another beautiful place to stay”.

This is absolutely true of course.

However, my personal guilt over the validity of this, was very misplaced. It did not have to do, in reality, with the turmoil I was feeling.  I will have to tackle my privileged Western guilt for another day, I suppose.

So we returned. The unpacking and the buying of groceries done. I had those eight weeks staring me in the face.  I will be honest: I still had this invisible stifling pressure bearing down on me, like a swimmer going deeper and deeper down in the water.

I knew I needed a game plan of how to handle NOT having a game plan, if that makes sense.

This is what I concluded would be the most beneficial way for me to deal with eight weeks of warm freedom:

*Wake early to write every morning after coffee outside with chickens and the dog

* Work in the garden every evening after dinner and daughters are organized to do their dinner duty

* Spend that time between my am and pm bookends of writing and gardening maintaining the house, keeping animals alive, raising daughters, maintaining a relationship with the husband, keeping up with others in my life via texting and prompt text reply, emailing, and actual face-to-face interaction, usually over food and alcohol.

* A few times a week volunteer at the local library

* Allow myself to see how I can serve at church

 

That is pretty much it.

My writing/gardening is strictly weekdays.

My in between writing/gardening that allows home maintenance feels like a luxury of unprecedented time, that calms me more than I can say.

My volunteer times are at set times and days, otherwise the pressing, draining need that are the nature of volunteer organizations will drain a person until they burn out.

This leaves ample room to allow my relationships with others to expand, unfurl, send out runners, like cucumbers in July.

Not to say I only keep up relationships in the summer, that would be odd. But it is undeniable that it is easier and therefore more pleasant in the summer. It repairs the damaged widening riff of my winter silence.

Without breathing room for relationships human existence gets dwarfed, sometimes to the point of blight-ridden and shriveled so much so he or she no longer even looks like their real selves.  For the believer in Christ, this is especially damaging as the spiritual relationship with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, is the springboard in which all our other relationships stay healthy, life-giving, bear good fruit.

Really, isn’t that what we all love about Summer so much?

It is the season of good fruit.

I’m no artist, but I love painting outside signs for my garden.

The fact that they soon get covered in nature and will be completely rotten in a few years, takes the pressure off to make it look like something I bought; lets me not be bothered by the fact it looks like something an elementary student did.

Cheers.

 

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why chickens?

why chickens

in some ways it is almost obligatory:

you move out to the sticks, you get chickens

amidst all the pintrest-fluff on self sufficiency

there is something deeper and richer about the food on your own plate coming from your own toil

a brood of fluff ball chicks

it is simply the easiest and cutest way to first step that 1,000 mile journey of being more self-sufficient

may i add,

frugality should not be the primary motivation

like all projects the start up costs are always steeper than advertised

we did everything as creatively cheap as possible but building a solid, dry, yet well-venalated, racoon-and-fox-proof 8×8 coop cost money

however, our CLUCKINGHAM PALACE was fun to plan and build and all six of us were involved, and so higher cost was more easily swallowed

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not to mention

have you recently woken up on a saturday and thought

hey,

how about we all see that new disney movie today…

and get popcorn…

and then go out to eat afterwards…

all six of us as a family…

our lumber cost probably neared that typical saturday at the mall with the family excursion

another thing:

almost everyone told us:

“don’t name them”

i almost always never listen to given advice

and so,

“josephine”

“lady”

“flo”

“myrtle”

“eggs”

&

“toast”

met an untimely and messy end

and i kid you not:

the chickens we never really got around to naming were the only ones to survive!

graphic life lesson?

six laying hens that include three different breeds remain

we have a pretty assorted half dozen eggs each morning for the eating

we have come to love quiches and french toast

even a family of six can’t eat three and a half dozen plain cooked eggs every week

we realized our name-less breakfast providers were being executed by chicken hawks

keeping them cooped up

{hey, that is where that term comes from!}

in their coop seemed mean or corporate or something…definitely not hip earthy organic cool like we like to THINK we are

a pretty cool solution emerged:

the solution that presented itself does nothing if not laud the natural eco system circle that emerges when a family starts to lives more natural and organic

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let me explain:

we have a big ole vegetable garden

of course

because like chickens it is pretty much something you have to do or you are just pretending to be a hick

i love gardening and love growing my own veggies

however come august, i am like:

“…meh” when it comes to weeding

{i should also mention i am real cheap when it come to mulch in may}

so,

“pick some veggies”  turned into   “try to find some veggies” by september

it is the folowing spirng

i am lamenting my cheap–may-self and lazy-august-self

i now have two problems:

my chickenS being air raided

my vegetable garden flowering so many summer weeds i cant even find the garden stakes left from last year

let me plant another visual in your mind

chickens are good at three things:

scratching the earth

pooping

& laying eggs

the last we are reaping the protein rich rewards, aplenty

the first two we have recently put to good use in our unsightly weed garden of doom:

plop our six ladies inside our fenced garden every morning

{after their morning job has been accomplished}

the ladies then are employed to do nothing but paw at the ground, eat the weeds and their weight in bugs {many garden pests} to boot, and poop…and chicken poop is another word for fertilizer

however before we could put our girls to work we had to hawk-proof it:

that entailed stringing about half a mile of various string, rope, and cord from post to post, criss-crossing it over and over until there were no spaces left wider than a foot

{hawks have a very wide wing span}

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it is beyond humorous to see family members

corner

catch

carry

squawking hens each morning to then fling them in between stringed spaces inside our garden fence

because we kept them contained in their coop for about two weeks once they were feathered their instinct to go back to the hen house every evening is strong

when the shadows get long we look out

the ladies are gone

they have put themselves to bed in their hen house

 

yet all wild things wander

that is partially why we got a dog:

Padfoot was a

hyper

willful

nipping maniac

puppy that for weeks i feared had ruined our life,

but perseverance

common sense discipline

a strong bond of love for the furry beast

and careful controlled use of a shock collar

has transformed out menace of a puppy into

watch dog…ever on duty

he is as viligant as he is enthusiastic

he herds and gently nips his feathered charges

tail thumping with glee the whole time

again, the cohesively working together; we bought chickens, and a dog, and seeds, and plants not to just buy and consume and dispose of, like so many of our purchases

each purchase has a purpose, and that purpose improves our life

enriches it in terms of:

food

nourishment,

beauty,

companionship,

or entertainment

A movie in a theater or stuff for sale on a rack can’t compete with that

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WATCH DOGS DON’T GET SNOW DAYS

Cheers!

Pregnant;  newborn; toddler; pre-schooler- PARENT

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We got a puppy.

His name is Pad-Foot Canis in honor of the dog characters in Harry Potter and The Sister Grimm books.

A big deal for a family.

Yet, not such a big deal to write about here at my space.

And yet.

This being our first ever canine member of the family I found myself not knowing what to expect at all. This not knowing and acquiring a puppy had quite the domino effect on the equilibrium of our family that I think is worth sharing.

{I bet the farm someone has written What To Expect When You Are Expecting: Puppy Edition, by now.}

The following is the bizarre feeling of deja`vu I experienced the evening prior to getting the puppy and lasting till the second day with him.

Pregnant:

Pregnant how?

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*Me spending hours at Barnes and Noble browsing and comparing expert puppy advice books and taking detailed notes on the book I finally settled on, to make me feel more prepared and in control of something new.

*Me spending hours and hundreds of dollars at TJMaxx on cute yet chic stuff “we need” for the newest edition to our family.

*Me getting a late night whirlwind of energy of the psychopathic variety to “get everything organized”.

*Me nesting by re-arranging where the puppy pillow bed and accessories would go then spending an hour turning a simple dog leash hook into a mixed media craft complete with quotes from literature.

*Me being mean because I am stressed declaring “I’m the only freakin’ person getting ready!” to my family.

*Me feeling like this is a big mistake, convinced I am not cut out for this.

Total flashbacks of my pregnancy-persona.  

Newborn.

Newborn how?

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*Pad-Foot crying and whimpering all night the first night.

*Me feeling guilty for not getting up because I am exhausted.

*Me getting out 12 seconds after I decide I am not going to get up.

*Tim sleeps through it all which pisses me off.

Total flashback of my newborn-in-the-house persona.

Toddler.

Toddler how?

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*Pad-Foot examining, turning over, chewing, trying to ingest everything in his line of vision and grasp.

*Me saying “No!” 97 times an hour, but always, always hesitating the moment before wondering if this is a bad behavior or just mere young curiosity.

*Me hoping I am doing this right and not causing terrible habits or setting wrong precedents.

*Me too tired to worry about such things come after dinner.

*Us having way too many conversations about pee and poop.

Total flashback of my second-guessing-exhausted-toddler-training-brain.

 Pre-schooler.

Pre-schooler how?

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*Pad-Foot following me around everywhere.

*Pad-Foot looking around frantically if he can’t see me.

*Pad-Foot’s presence making laundry a twice as long chore because of an intense fascination with baskets holding clothes.

*Me enjoying it despite.

Total Pre-schooler-not-letting-me-get-anything-done-persona.

******************************************************** 

This was such an unexpected experience. {Despite my efforts to be prepared reading the experts; just like with babies!}

It was five years of stages coming into sharp memory focus in the span of the first 48 hours with our puppy.

I can see why couples chose pets over children, man. I really can.

One gets the thrill of newness and sweet relationship and shopping binge of a baby coming, but without all that fussy eighteen years of development thing dragging your life to a halt.

Reflecting on this I noted another superior advantage to canine over human:

The likelihood of others judging you for the rest of your natural life if your dog does or does not do brag-worthy tricks, does well or not so well at obedience school, what he eats or does not eat, acts like at Target,- is very, very low.

The likelihood of all of these judgments on you from people who do not even know you or your child and all the subsequent life long guilt over it- is unavoidable.

However, I am still completely happy and without any regret with us having four daughters in seven years {which equates one quarter of century of child rearing} prior to being “parents” to a puppy.

I cringe thinking about how much worse of a mood, how much more our stress would of  flowed, run over, should we have simultaneously raised little humans and a dog.

I would like to write it was because I was just smart or lucky it did not work out that way or something to that effect and leave it at that.  But really it is not my smarts and there is no such thing as luck. It comes down to a single reality:

Wisdom.

Summed up, I chose to seek God and know myself. In seeking God in every single aspect of our unceasing rotating door of life little pictures of what will bless what will not bless us started to take shape. Understanding and wisdom rose slowly, broke the surface in the waters of our swirling minds.  It is then that one gets real pragmatic about self.

Know thyself.

The pregnant/baby/toddler/pre-school years were really hard on me.  I did not take to it gracefully, thought it was always the desire of my heart, and I love having children.  Sin nature is keenly seen and felt. Sanctification must happen or sin becomes choke hold.

Pad-Foot could not be thrown into such dicey waters. It would of been bad for him and us.

Of course, the struggle over letting Christ nature wash and renew over sin nature never ceases, but the seasons change.

It seems this is our both working, raising older kids, homesteading, dog season. But I have the summer completely off; thus the puppy now {wisdom}.

Next on the list: chickens.

Cheers

my flowers in june

The month of June is summer showing off here in upstate New York. Our new home is wonderfully devoid of needing any inside work

but…

completely uncultivated outside.

Three acres  left alone to sleep for several years now.

However, at one time someone took much care, planning, time, and money on the outside property.

We have been given the gift to be the recipient of their efforts; only having to coax it back to its glory. All that is demanded of us:

some sweat

proper big boy tools

an eye for hidden gems

and appreciation for the raw natural beauty that is here already.

Here is the outside of our home with only some old out buildings against blossoms and wild flowers as landscape:

Our pair of American Chestnut Trees:

 

rare

 monstrously huge

and covered in blossoms the color of peppermint sticks

the blossoms leave

a path

of candy confetti

littered over half our shady side yard

instead of gardens

I have

wildflowers

And I must use this space to tell of my new favourite magazine find; stumbled upon at the lovely Barnes and Noble.

It is called DAPHNES DIARY.

It is a British publication  {thus the spelling of “favorite” with a U above}

It is so cottage-y and write-y and craft-y and home spun-y and arts-y

and best of all, it has these free paper do-it- yourself templates scattered among the pages, much little lovely little wildflowers sown in, in themselves.

Google it or go hunt it out at Barnes and Noble, I encourage you. I know it will make your summer more pleasant because it will make you slow down.

Here are some photos of the free paper flower templates we made from the Summer issue of Daphne’s Diary. We strung it with twine and pin-pushed it in the ceiling to hang in the girls’ tree house:

 

So, between chestnut blossoms, wild flowers in the grass and field, along wit diy paper crafts I still have some pretty flowers in this show off month of June.

old and young