Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered RAVELRY.com and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!

Trail5

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.

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OMGoodness, it was a long weekend.  I’m completely, thoroughly EXHAUSTED.  Did we get it all done?  Nope.  But, wow, we got quite a lot done.  The barn was gutted and we started over….  We now have three separate chicken pens, so far, with more to come.  The bunnies have an approx. 15′ x 12′ foot area for their little colony.  DH promises me toys for the rabbits.  I’m thinking a tiered platform, a place to crawl under, and a few little wire bottom nest boxes.  This with a few cardboard boxes to chew on should make them very happy.   The hens have their coop back and they seem appropriately grateful.  We’ll see how many eggs we get today. 🙂

Ana made Sarah’s birthday cake and did a lovely job.

Let me tell you, the Amish Division of Duties has a purpose!  On Saturday I worked inside all day long.  DH worked outside all day long.  At the end of the day we’d had three square meals, a clean house, crisp laundry, and an altogether pleasant day.  We had supervised children, good naps, and at the end of the day we rested, feeling accomplished.  Did I mention the rhubarb pie?  Hands down, THE best pie I’ve ever made.  And it had the flakiest crust… I used lard instead, as a good cook should. 🙂  I didn’t know you could make pie with ONLY rhubarb and still have it as sweet and delicious as a rhubarb mutt pie.  But I had nothing to mix it with, and was forced to use only rhubarb.  I think I’m making it again today.  So wonderful!

Fast forward to yesterday, day four of our long weekend.  We got moving fairly early on and headed out to the barn for the reconstruction.  I came in at lunch time and made lunch, but other than that we were flying by the seat of our pants.  Oh, and I admit it, we took a one hour nap.  😛  We deserved it.  We didn’t come in for supper last night until almost 9:30 in a last frantic effort to get it all done.  It didn’t happen.

We were expecting a homeschool group today and so that was our motivation to get it all done.  It didn’t happen.  But, as it rained all day yesterday and it’s expected to rain all day today, the visit by the group has been cancelled.  And that’s for the best.  Because everything is MUD.  And on a farm, mud isn’t wet dirt, it’s wet… Well, you get the picture and the picture isn’t pretty.  I’m a little sad as I really wanted to meet everyone!  However, we had planned on a great little picnic lunch, and as DH is only in the planning stages of our big table, we currently only have four chairs, the computer chair, and one very small dining room table.  At meals, two children sit at the island and two more sit at the Step 2 plastic table.  It works well enough, and I’m really excited about the Amish style trestle table we’ve been planning.  We are using reclaimed barn wood and we’ll have big, long benches.  Imagine it – ALL of us sitting around the same table.  Very exciting.  Even better, DH will have made it.  Honestly, I don’t even care if it turns out ugly…  I just think it will be neat to sit around a table my DH made with his own hands. 

What else was on my list?  Oh yes!  Stake the goats.   LOL!  Well, you can’t say we didn’t try.  And try.  And try.  And the only thing it resulted in was putting Heidi up for sale.  This is Heidi:

buddies

She’s a pretty little Saanen, but what we’re going to spend in aspirin really isn’t going to make her worth it.
She uses the window sill of the barn to vault her over a five foot fence.  No, really, she does.  She can crawl through cattle gate and under a gate that the mini doesn’t get through.  She’s exhausting.  So we staked her.  She managed to somehow get the collar to unclip.  How does a goat pull that off?  Sigh.

Stormy & Sunny

Stormy & Sunny

This is Stormy & Sunny.  They’re CJ’s pigs.  Aren’t they, um, well, lovely?  We cleaned their pen yesterday and MY they are naughty…   And yes, daring.  Yes, they escaped too.  Tim was supposed to keep them away while I did poop removal.  Never trust your four year old to hold back the vicious pigs. 🙂  Who KNEW pigs could run that fast?  I sure didn’t.  I tell you I am going to stay in such good shape, lean and trim, this pregnancy.  Stormy and Sunny have learned to tip their trough and roll it through the poop.  Now, that’s FUN.  And they can also jump in their water tub and splash all the water out until it’s light enough to roll around through poop too.  Smart pigs, hm?  Ha Ha.  I outsmarted them.  And, pathetically, I was pretty proud that I *could* outsmart them.  I think the more I work with livestock, the more easily I take pride in being able to outsmart them.  I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or just really sad.   I took my handy dandy drill and attached BOTH to the wall with really long screws.  And they were still there this morning.  Always a good sign.

A Boy & His Boat

A Boy & His Boat

And because rain has ruined my day, here’s the gratuitious rainy day photo.  Nope, not our farm.  It was our house in town last year.  But isn’t it fun? The cardboard box is his boat.  Our neighbor, Jim, (I miss him!) said he was going to put bluegills in there the next time it rained because Tim was so excited about having his very own pond.  Blessedly, shortly after this, DH and another neighbor dug up backyard and fixed the tile.  Poor Tim, no more pond.  But, let be said, the only thing I miss about moving here is that we couldn’t take all of our neighbors with us.  They were so awesome.

Camping

Camping

I REALLY wanted to take the kids to my Uncle John’s timber this weekend camping.  It truly is “roughing” it as there is NO escape from the outdoors – you couldn’t get a camper, or a PortaJohn for that matter, down there if you tried.  But you could never, ever duplicate the experience.  Yes, it’s never fun getting poison ivy on your more delicate parts from visiting Mrs. Murphy (you’d have to read Cheaper by the Dozen to understand), but at the same time, we hunt, gather, and find more herbs and edibles there than you can imagine. 

Rebecca & Jewelweed

Rebecca & Jewelweed

Thankfully, in that very poison ivy filled timber, there is also jewelweed – a.k.a. Touch-Me-Not.  Rebecca is with pale Touch-Me-Nots, but we were also able to find the more potent orange  spotted Touch-Me-Nots.  This was last year.  I have the frozen syrup in my freezer as the dried herb doesn’t work effectively.  Only fresh or frozen… I’ve been storing it all year long, just hoping to get poison ivy to try it out. 

 

Elderberries

Elderberries

A rather nice haul of elderberries wouldn’t you say?  Now, the only thing I’ve wanted to make this year is Clover jam and Dandelion blossom jam.  I was hoping for a trip to the timber yesterday and a batch, but alas, it did not happen.  Now, if only we can stay motivated to finish the barn today and tomorrow, then MAYBE this weekend will be for fun and playing.  Ya think?