Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Nature Camp














There are a few things happening behind the scenes at our little homestead, most of which I can't share yet, but one of the things I can share is the small summer nature camp I am hosting this summer. I have been wanting to do this for a while, but various things have always gotten in the way, so when a friend, who was interested in the nature camp, asked if I would watch her two girls one day a week for the month of July, I said yes.

The girls are joining Reece and I on Thursday's for the month, and we are doing a little nature camp. I am using it as a trial, seeing how well it works, and if all goes well, I will open it up next summer to a few more kids. Since this is hosted at our home, I don't have plans for it to be huge, I am thinking no more than four kids plus Reece.

So just what did we get up to last Thursday, on our first day of camp. The kids enjoyed a little bit of free play when they arrived, as I finished baking a loaf of banana bread for their morning snack. Once the banana bread was cooling, I headed outside and took a little walk around the garden. I didn't ask them to join me, but knew they would. Questions were asked about what was growing, and could they try it. So we picked food, and herbs and had a little tasting session. Flowers, of course, were also picked, and arranged by little hands in vases to go home. I then brought the kids inside and set them up with some blocks and one at a time they joined me at the sewing machine where they each sewed their own nature journal, with a little help from me. They enjoyed their snack, and then we were off to adventure in the woods. While we walked the kids had fun making nature bracelets, and were overjoyed to find a very large patch of wild strawberries. They picked and ate, enjoying those little jewels of sweetness. As we walked through the woods we talked about some of the flowers they noticed, learned what poison ivy looks like, harvested dandelion greens for our smoothie, checked milkweed leaves for monarch eggs, collected bits of nature to bring home, and wandered along the trails with smiles on our faces. I asked them to keep their eyes open for something they might like to draw in their new nature journals, and when we got home they started drawing, while I whipped up some smoothies. A little more free play, and then lunch on the back deck. While we ate lunch I had rocks in the oven, heating up, and once the lunch dishes were done and put away we gathered some crayons and sat on the back deck drawing on the hot rocks. If you haven't done this before, I highly recommend it. I myself found it very meditative, and if the calm, quiet and focus of the three kiddos was any indication, they also found it meditative. Of course this activity requires close supervision, and we did have a little causality, but a quick soak in some ice water, a bit of my magic homemade, herbal healing salve, and a band-aid fixed it up pretty well. As the rocks cooled, the kids played, and I made popcorn. They snacked on popcorn, and shared some with the chickens, who were quite pleased about that. Together, we then wandered the yard, picking little pieces of nature. They didn't know why, I just told them to look for leaves or flowers that they liked. We gathered on the back deck, arranged our bits of nature and then transferred them to sun paper, and made sun prints. Reece had done this before, but it was new for the girls, and they loved it. As the sun prints dried on the line, the kids played a little more, and then it was time to go home. I think the fact that they didn't want to go home was a good sign.

I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I had. It was a wonderful day, filled with wonder and awe, and a little bit of magic. I fell into bed that evening tired and happy. I am so looking forward to camp this week, and have some pretty awesome things planned. I think I just might be enjoying summer nature camp as much as the kids.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

27/52

"A photo of my little man, once a week, every week, in 2015"

Reece, we are in full summer mode around here, and you don't mind one bit. Mornings are long and slow, usually with a visit to the woods. Afternoons are spent in the yard, you playing, me in the garden. Evenings find us lingering over our meal on the back deck, and some nights enjoying a fire. Other nights, you and your dad play, and I sit back, knitting, and watching as you both enjoy time together before bed. Summer is truly here, and we are planning to soak up every last bit of it.

Joining Jodi for the 52 Project

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Around the Garden






















Life has been full around here this week. We finished up our last day of kindergarten on Monday, we celebrated this wonderful country we call home yesterday, with friends, and today, I ran my first, of what I hope will be many, nature camp. It's the kinda full that makes your heart sing, and fills you up with that happy feeling.

And to top it all off, the gardens are thriving. At the beginning of the week I was praying for it to stop raining, yes, to stop raining, and it did, finally. The gardens were saturated, and I wasn't quite sure how much more rain they could handle. Thankfully, the sun came out yesterday, and for the next five days we have nothing but sunshine in the forecast, and that means all the little jobs on my garden to do list will hopefully get done this weekend.

Everything is lush and green in the gardens, and more food is being harvested every day, including snow peas!! Did you see them? That was the first handful on Monday, since then there has been many more, and even some shared with friends today. Around the rest of the garden the pole beans are growing up, bush beans and runner beans are blossoming, the cucumber is using the trellis and slowly starting to grow up it, the first of the strawberries are ripening, and the herbs are exploding. These are good days in the garden, and I am soaking up every bit of it.

How are things around your garden?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bees!








Dreams, they are wonderful things, aren't they? They keep you looking forward, learning and growing, and at times, push you out of your comfort zone a little bit. I have been dreaming about bees for a very long time. I did a workshop three years ago, my first experience hanging with bees, and I was mesmerized. It was a magical experience, and I was sure bees would be joining our little homestead the following spring. For various reasons, they didn't, and while I was sad about that, I knew when the time was right it would all fall into place.

Over the last three years, I have kept my dream of having bees alive, reading and researching, learning as much as I can, and gaining confidence that I could look after these amazing little creatures. A few months ago we made the decision that next spring bees will be joining us here, and with that decision came more questions, more research, and more planning. All of the beekeepers I know use Langstroth hives, and so it made sense we would follow the same route. That is until I found a beekeeping workshop focused on the top bar hive.

I spent a few hours on Saturday with a beekeeping enthusiast, and a handful of eager future beekeepers learning about the top bar hive, bees and their colony, and how to look after these magical creatures. It was an enjoyable afternoon, filled with lots of learning, and of course a taste test of delicious honey. Unfortunately, due to the rain, we couldn't open the hive, but we were able to take a look at it, discuss how it works, and even take a peek at what might be happening in the hive, based on the piece of paper you see above. Last week a piece of paper slathered with Vaseline was placed at the bottom of the hive to give the owners an idea of the mite count. It was rather amazing what this little piece of paper told us. At the far end, where it is bright yellow, that is fresh pollen, and shows us that is the entrance to the hive. Obviously as the bees enter the hive heavy with pollen some of it falls off, and was gathered on the paper. After that there is an area with less particles, that is where the queen and her colony are, and just past that there is some fuzzy looking remains, that is newspaper that was added to the hive to fill in a few holes. The bees obviously didn't like it so much, and chewed it up. This is a fairly new hive, and no mites were found, a good thing. It was amazing to be able to gain this much information about the hive from this piece of paper.

When the workshop wrapped up, I was on a bit of a high, and feeling the pull of the bees. We are excited to add them to our homestead next spring, and after much discussion on the way home, Justin and I have decided we are going to give the top bar hive a go. So exciting!!!

So, now the plans and preparations begin. Justin will be building the hive this fall, and I plan on doing more reading and research over the winter, thanks to wonderful resources shared with us on Saturday, and then late next spring we will be ready to welcome the bees.

*******

This workshop was held at the most wonderful homestead/bed and breakfast in Kitchener, and I have to give them a shout out because that high I was riding when I left was not only because of the bees, but also because of the wonderful family that welcomed us into their space, shared information on building an outdoor cob oven (yes, we have plans to add one to our homestead), chatted with me about homeschooling, and made us feel welcome and comfortable on their homestead. Thank you Karin, Greg, Maya and Finley.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

26/52

"A photo of my little man, once a week, every week, in 2015"

Reece, a second trip to the strawberry patch because you can never have too many strawberries tucked away for the long, cold winter to come. Once again you picked, and ate, searching out the best berries, and promptly eating them. I love that you have a connection to your food, understanding where it comes from, and how much work goes into growing it. This farm has been a part of our seasonal rhythm for five years, and not only do you have a connection to the berries grown here, but to the farmer and his wife, who greet us, talk to us, and welcome us onto their farm to pick. It's a special place, and it is so wonderful to share it with you.

Joining Jodi for the 52 Project

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Around the Garden


















We have settled into a nice rhythm with Mother Nature in the garden, rain every third or fourth day, usually in the evening, just enough to give every thing a good soak, but not too much to leave everything sitting in too much water. It is perfect, and the gardens are thriving because of it. My unwelcome guest, the leafminer, has been stopped in its tracks, for now. I have been keeping a very close eye on the beets and Swiss chard, and so far all my extra attention is paying off, and I am pretty pleased about that.

After a few weeks of heavy duty work in the garden, we had a definite change in pace this week. There was more time spent weeding, walking around, and just enjoying our space. I intended to do some mulching, but with our summer solstice celebrations taking up a bit of my extra time, it didn't get done. I have moved it to the to do list for this week.

I gave the tomatoes a little extra attention this week, removing suckers, and tying them up for support. The garlic scapes are ready, and I have been harvesting a few every day to add to our meals. A large amount was harvested on Monday, turned into pesto, and added to the freezer. Tomorrow I will harvest the rest, and more pesto will be made.

Along with garlic scarpes we are eating salad greens, kale, Swiss chard, basil, parsley, rosemary, chives, calendula flowers, and borage flowers. The first planting of snow peas are producing many flowers, and I spied a few pods ripening on the vines. They will be ready soon, and I can't wait.

Many medicinal herbs were harvested this week for tinctures, and oil infusions, and to dry for teas. Catnip, yarrow, heal-all, and comfrey all have a place in my kitchen at this moment as they are being prepared for medicinal use. The St. John's wort is flowering, and the bee balm is reaching for the sky. My calendula from seed is finally flowering, and goodness seeing those beautiful orange and yellow blooms makes my heart sing. This week will see the harvesting of lemon balm, for tincturing, and to dry for tea. The power of plant medicine never ceases to amaze me, and it makes me so very happy to be able to prepare them for my family.

I walk around the gardens a few times every day. The morning walk is slow and meditative, with tea in hand. During the day my walks are more about searching out work to be done, and getting it done. There is harvesting for meals, and sometimes a moment or two of stillness as I look around and take it all in. Before dinner I walk, sipping home brewed kombucha, and just relaxing into the beauty of the garden. And in the evening, as the sun sets on the day, I take another walk, usually with a cup of tea, and just soak up the goodness of it all. It really is a pleasure, growing our own food. It feels good, it feels right, for us.

How are things around your garden?