Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Eggs!

Ukrainian style!

I wanted to share with you my two week long addiction adventure with this art form.  There is definitely a learning curve.  There is also the type of learning which teaches you how every single egg is going to be different, no matter how you try to match up designs or resulting shades of dye.  Really, it's a surprise when the wax comes off!  But that's half the fun!

This is my first egg before the wax was removed.

My very first egg in years.

 Here's a brief summary on how to do this ancient craft...

After lightly penciling in your guidelines and basic design, you begin by applying wax to preserve the color of the eggshell, ideally white.  But if you're like me, the only eggs I have are from my own chickens who only give me green and some bluish eggs.  But as I found, this is a worthwhile sacrifice, because the store-bought eggs I had in storage for years were terrible with accepting the dyes!

This first egg of mine was done on a store-bought egg, so it's white.  Now that the wax is on, this is where the white lines will be.  Now it's ready for the first dye bath, yellow.

As you can see, the dye is not received well by these molested eggs.  The wash they use on them must be very harsh.

After the yellow, orange is next, followed by green and purple.

My second egg...

You probably can't see it, but the dye is splotchy on this egg too.  Still, not a bad second egg!
My next one is going to be one of our own farm fresh eggs.

The dye is much more uniform!  As a beginner, my lines are wobbly.  This egg also represents my first attempt at changing the design from the pattern I used.  I didn't like it, but I liked the ram with the bird on it's tail.  And you almost can't tell the egg isn't a pure white!

My first three eggs...

This is a great egg-blower!

You can leave the egg in tact and hope that the insides dry up over a few year's time.  If you do, you run the risk of unstable temperatures causing it to explode!  You won't like the odor left behind either.  So I opt to blow them out and live with the little hole at the top.  I read somewhere that a little white glue on the hole will dry clear.  Might be worth a try.

This fourth egg I got creative.  It represents the way I remember the Easter eggs of my childhood.  The Russian Orthodox cross; the Pussy Willow represents the first signs of Spring and has significance in Eastern Orthodox Easter services; the XB are for "Christ is Risen" in Russian and Ukrainian; and the top is representative of a design used in a particular region in the Ukraine.

I'm so happy with the design, that I had to do about four of them, and each was different!  Duplication doesn't work on eggs very well!  But I love each one of them.

Then I saw an egg pictured on a website, and which didn't come with directions, and since I'm a sucker for challenges, I had to duplicate it as best as I could.  Despite the fact that I had to cover nearly the entire egg in wax to get the design right, I did it!  This is the result.  It wasn't perfect, but I finally figured out the pattern after having finished this one.

Using it (on the left) as my guideline,  I'm making two more.  These two are a little more accurate than my first attempt, but also with a little design error... Oh well, I have to accept this inevitability.

The exciting part, melting off the wax and watching the design come to life!

Maybe next year I'll do the design right!  Maybe I'll still do it this year... I don't know, this is becoming too much of an obsession!

My own version of pysanky!

Happy Easter!
"Christ is Risen!"
"Truly He Has Risen!"

Come join us all at the Farmgirl/Farm Friend Friday blog hop
hosted by the Dandelion House and Verde Farm

It's always great fun to pop in on so many interesting farm and homesteaders!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Road-Grader

Yep, as I mentioned earlier, Miracle Worker horse-traded again!  This time he really out-did himself!  This time the trade comes with a job already attached to it.  It is a ready made job!

MW connecting the fuel tank in the back of the truck to the grader's battery.

The bad news, we still need to pay off a reasonable balance even though trading was involved.  The good news, we only pay a small sum per hour while the grader is in operation.  Even better good news, we don't pay anything during down-time, repairs and maintenance.  The bad news, that's gonna happen.  Just not real soon if we're lucky!

The fuel tank is the L shaped, white box, with the red tool box sitting on top of it.  This is how he's getting fuel to the grader.

Miracle Worker agonized over the decision to do this, because he knows the grader needs maintenance and repair.  This is the biggest risk we've had to take with it.  Until we can get a repair-fund going, we are in operation only by the grace of God.  Well, ALWAYS by the grace of God!  But you know what I mean, we must do our part to plan ahead.

That's how tall these tires are when you compare their height to the level of the truck bed.

The top of the truck isn't even as high as the grader's engine.
So, what I'm sayin' is, "It's Big."

Would you believe me if I told you he taught himself how to operate this bad boy?  I asked him how he did that, and he said it is a life-time of observing how things work and watching the results.
So is that an indication of the sort of boys I'm raising?  COOL!

So there you have it.  An amazing trade, an amazing job, and an amazed wife.  Stunned actually.  But amazed too.  And surprisingly, this man wants me to learn how to operate it one of these days.  The way he looks at it, is if something were to happen to him, I could still run the equipment, making the money I/we need, and we could increase our chances of still being able to live right where we want to live!  Well I sure don't mind that!  Sounds good to me!  Besides, I think things like this are FUN!  It will always trump working in an office job, where I would die a slow, agonizing death, because I don't thrive in environments like that, AT ALL.

Thankfully, MW is the same way and doesn't mind teaching me these things!  It's a match made in heaven!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keepin' It Real

It's Spring and birthing has been mostly the main theme of homesteads and farmsteads!  Blossoms are filling the air with honey-like scents, and kids are being born, goat kids that is!

It was March 28th, and Meatloaf was born without any complications!  That's the name he got when we determined he was a boy.  We already have a buck who isn't related to the does.  So, that means he'll be one of our sources of good, humane, clean meat one day.  We watched mother and baby to make sure he began suckling within an hour, and about 35 minutes or so later, he did!  After mom got him mostly cleaned off and he had his first drink at the bar, we moved them both into the main barn overnight.  That way they were undisturbed through the night, but still immediately next to, and in sight of, the rest of the herd.

This is the very same doe who was attacked by a dog.  You can read about it here.

The boys have no trouble seeing or eating our own meat sources.  They've watched and listened to us as we helped a neighbor clean his deer.  A week later they watched us all working together butchering, packaging, dating, and freezing the meat.  They know where meat comes from and will never be one of those people who have actually said things like, "Hunting is inhumane, why don't you just go to the store where they MAKE it?"  Yep, that sort of comment is very real, coming from very real people, who have had the misfortune of not having access to their own humanely processed meat.  There is a very real disconnection between the realities of where food comes from and how it gets to the supermarkets.

Nowadays, cattle ranchers are up against this mentality.  They like to remind as many people as possible that if their operations are shut down by new local, state and federal laws stopping or seriously hindering them, then in less than three days, the supermarket shelves will not have any beef on them.  The alternative is higher priced meat from outside the country like China, Australia, and South America.  Personally the only source I'd be more likely to trust is Australia.  Problem is, you still cannot know the quality of your meat unless you actually hunt it or raise it and process it yourself.  Modern meat 'production' is borderline inhumane or it IS inhumane.  Even our egg production in this country is largely inhumane.

All good reasons to support your local homesteads and farmsteads!  You can find fresh milk, eggs, veggies, fruits, and yes, even meat!

It's the good life!

Join the Barn Hop and enjoy more of this good life which others are so gracious and eager to share!

I'm also linking up with the exciting Farmgirl Friday hosted by the gracious Deborah Jean,

and Amy over at Verde Farm's Farm Friends Friendzy blog hop!

It's great fun linking up with so many exciting homesteaders and farmsteaders!

And thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Work, School, Play

Friday we all went to town to run some odd errands, which included buying red diesel fuel for off-road applications.  The red dye from the fuel had better not be found in your vehicle's fuel tank, because that means you aren't paying your road tax!  It's used for equipment.  And guess what, MW horse-traded AGAIN!

This time it was for a full-sized road grader!  The grader comes with a job already attached to it too, so he doesn't have to go out and bid jobs and then hope for the best!!!  It's a ready-made job!  Can you get any more lucky?  Not often, I tell ya!  There's a potential hitch.  A calculated risk.  We need to stow away as much income as possible, as fast as possible, so that in the inevitable event it needs repairs and maintenance, we aren't stuck with equipment that can't be fixed.  No money for repairs means no money at all, ever, end of story, dead in the water.  Job security requires saving for those times.  This is all helping us to make the shift from solar sales and installations to equipment that will hopefully get us off the ground with our grand plans in life.

What I was starting to say before I went off on this tangent (our lives are full of those aren't they?), was that part of the reason for going to town together yesterday was to get me out of the house!

We're still down to one vehicle since Miracle Worker's trade for the backhoe.  After those errands were complete, we headed home the long way.  Hahahaha!  Yes, going home is already a long trip of 60 miles on a good day!  But this time we took a detour which consisted of 110 miles from town to home.

MW had to go to a customer's house, before they arrived the next day from out of town, to finish up some water-tank plumbing.  So, while the oldest boy assisted his dad, the other two boys went with me for a walk.

We found this prickly character fixin' to bloom.  Oh how I wish I'd found him in bloom!

We happened upon this lone lupine in a wash.  We talked about how it's part of the legume family.

I LOVE this shot!  If you were a mouse, this is what you'd see!

The kids spied several of these desert marigolds.  They loved the bright yellow!

The boys found these white wildflowers and had to have their pictures taken with the newly discovered plant!  I have no idea what they're called.  Just confirms I need an excellent wildflower guide book of the southwest.

This walk has turned into a trek of discovery.  And they eagerly point out their finds to me.  I discuss with them that we are always to watch out for wildflowers, taking care not to step on them or pick them.  "Why?" they ask.  I respond by telling them they bloom for very short periods of time and they have a job to fulfill, such as feeding insects, bugs, rodents, rabbits, javelinas, and birds.  They are part of the growth cycle in nature.

We make our way up out of the little wash we were in, and I make a bee-line towards this Joshua Tree.

The kids, filled with the joy and excitement with our discoveries exclaim their awe at seeing one of these up close.  "What is it?" they ask.  I tell them the name, that it's not really a tree, and that it's one of the many yuccas we find here in the desert.  And, that it's the biggest and tallest of all the yuccas.  They understand now, they know yuccas, but didn't know it was the biggest kind of them all.

I am instructed to, "Take a picture!"

And on the other side!

Weston discovers this little wildflower!  I love these mouse's-eye-views!

The boys discovering Ocotillo...

...and rocks...

...and other exciting sights.

We discuss how dead Joshua Trees serve as 'hotels,' to centipedes, scorpions, beetles, termites, lizards, geckos, mice, and snakes; just like the Saguaros when they get old and fall.  They have a favorite book illustrating and teaching this concept with Saguaros, so they could easily relate it to the Joshua Tree too.

We return to the truck, do show and tell with Dad, showing him all our finds.  The kids couldn't resist taking home some of their favorite rocks!  Just like me when I was a kid!  Well, I STILL do actually!  Can't pass up an interesting rock!

As we make the drive home, I reflect on how natural this all was.  How easy it was to walk around, discover, talk, and share all we saw.  It was school at it's best!
It was science!  Oh how I love science!  And best of all, the kids can relate to it on a personal level!  One of the concepts of "unschooling!"

We drove up the mountain after dark and found several inches of snow at home.  We woke up Saturday morning to this!  Seriously?  Spring?  The apple blossoms are doomed.  No apples this year I'm afraid!
(But another opportunity to talk about why in our 'unschool!')

How was your weekend?  Peaceful?  Epic?  Cold?  Warm?

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Options in Schooling

A deep nagging feeling about the curriculum I've chosen to use has been simmering inside me just below the surface.  Schooling my children is an exciting endeavor.  On the other hand, I'm hindered in my joy by my views of what school ought to be like, even if it's at home.  Therefore, it has caused more strife within me than confidence.

In addition to this, I live a very unconventional life.  Our entire family doesn't do anything 'normally.'  Every one of us is independent, curious, creative, and self motivated.  Living off grid, far from standard lifestyles has caused me, all of us, to realize nothing can be done on a standard 'city' schedule as found in families in town.  We live on what I call 'homestead-time.'  Nothing is predictable, and you must adapt to the fact that the best laid plans can and most likely will change on a dime. 

You can plan and keep a schedule, but that schedule is likely to be accomplishing one item on the list rather than several in a single day.  The reason for this is it takes lots of time to get from one place to another, no conveniences of town exist nearby to speed up preparations of meals or auto repairs or anything else.  If it breaks, we fix it, not a hired plumber or electrician.  If it is threatened or attacked, we protect it ourselves, we do not have animal control, a fire department or a police department.  It can be quite a culture shock, even still, how much time it takes to accomplish anything yourself.  It is a different set of rules, different time-frame, different work.

My husband is far wiser than I am.  He has a sixth sense that allows him to get to the heart of nearly any matter.  As I struggle with the impact this reality has on our homeschool, he reminds me of our different life.  I lament that I cannot keep a schedule, that I must be a failure, that I have no commitment skills whatsoever, and that my children's education is suffering as a result.  He ever so patiently listens to me.  He then reminds me that the children are learning just by living.  The experiences they have out here will be with them forever.  They will be able to think creatively through varying problems that most city kids wouldn't have a clue as to how to get around or through.  "What about keeping them on schedule with their reading, writing, and math?" I ask breathlessly.  He says with emphatic resolution that they are indeed learning, and that like every other child on the face of the earth, they learn these things on their own time, their own way.  He isn't worried.  He's confident I am doing exactly what I should be doing.  I just need to relax and allow each one to learn on his own terms.  He doesn't see our life here as a hindrance to keeping a schedule, because according to him I am placing too much emphasis on schedules.  He has faith that they will learn what they want to learn and need to learn naturally. 

He's right, of course.  So very right.

Nothing is perfect.  Our ideas of 'perfect' are just that, ideas.  They are not standard.  They usually don't conform themselves to reality.  We can use ideas as goals to strive towards, but not as standards!

As I mentioned above, the nagging feeling I have over the curriculum I chose must be addressed.  I chose what I did only because I thought it was a good way to keep myself on track and thereby avoid robbing my children of missing out on learning what, when and how they 'should.'

My perfectionism must end.  I must not be overcome by the desire to cover every subject deeply.  Or every subject each day, for that matter.  It is an impossible goal.  It's not real life.

I started doing some research on a term that has piqued my curiosity.  "Unschooling."  What I quickly learned was that my husband must have been the founder of unschooling!  Unschooling is student directed, not instructor directed.  It's a terrifying concept for a control freak like me.  But the Lord leads us to and through the things we must learn.  The idea is that if you have faith in the human being (young or old), and if that individual is safe to be himself, he will naturally learn because of his own desires, needs and curiosity.  This even applies to reading, writing... and yes, math too!

The hardest thing is the unknown.  I don't know what to do without a schedule.  By the same token, I can't live within the confines of schedules either!  I do not wish to pass on my addiction to accomplishment as a means of validation on to my children.  I want them to experience the joy of being who they are, irregardless of how much they do or don't know.  The ultimate gift I can give them, and to the world, is to let them be who they are going to be.

It's time to think outside the box.  No child was ever forced to learn anything until they started school.  They were learning just fine before then.  We force them to think in narrow terms.  These terms are soon connected to self esteem, self worth, that if they perform a certain way it equals love.  But then they must choose if they will perform according to an arbitrary 'professional' standard, giving up on their own path, or pay the price of being true to themselves.

From what I've learned so far and experienced with my children, I have a hunch that we can go with unschooling which allows for our unique family and individual experiences.  They are artists, scientists, dancers, chemists, readers, writers, astronomers, naturalists, engineers and mathematicians already.  I've allowed them to ask questions and helped them find material to expand their knowledge already.  It's frightening to me, but the most natural thing to them!  I can still gently suggest and guide them without coercion!  I can still be there to facilitate their explorations.  We can still use a curriculum for a subject if he and I believe that is the best way to approach a certain subject for them.  My job is to love them, believe in them, and allow them to grow into who they are now and who they will be.

Kind of takes the pressure off doesn't it?

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Send up a prayer for us as we embark on this fascinating journey!

And if you have any thoughts and ideas of your own you wish to share, PLEASE DO!

Join the frenzy! It's fun!