Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Old School BMX Dragonslayer

Poor Noah. His sister and friend Lydie were kicking his butt in bike speed. Noah on last year's sad little bike with it's small wheels just couldn't cut it next to the girl's big wheels racing down the street. Oh it made him mad and he was begging for a new bike.

Check him out now.

Check it! This bike is 34 years old! It's been loved, and we love it.  And the color is perfect for our "golden boy." :-)

Our friends Sergio and Cindy offered up Sergio's personal vintage BMX bike for Noah to love and enjoy. When they gave it to us, I had no idea of the "old school BMX" LOVE out there in the world (we are now converts!). When I returned home and checked out Sergio's bike online, I was floored. What a gem Noah has been given, and how generous of our friends to share this treasure with him. Sergio rode this bike back in 1977 in Miami, FL as a child. I simply must see photos, and hear more history. This bike will be with us for generations, I can promise you that. 

This kid couldn't be happier. He came running in this morning and asked me to tie his dragon cape on, and seconds later I was watching him race up and down our street, blond hair blowin in the wind, cape catching the breeze behind him. 

Dragons, watch yourselves. Noah's got your number.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Our Secret Spot

Tucked away at the edge of NC's coastal plain swamps is our little "secret spot," what we call "the Woodpecker Beach." It's a magical Tom Sawyer world where any kid (or kid-at-heart) can wander the shores in search of buried treasure. Peaceful and calm, there are no boats, no other people, no development at all. When you are quiet, it is quiet, although you may hear the soft hum of dragonfly wings, the splash of jumping mullet, or the distant cry of an osprey overhead.
As we were driving away from home on the way to our beach, we spotted a yard sale table and stopped to check it out. We ended up finding a bargain and the perfect treasure, which the kids called "the best toy in the world:" a vintage wooden Star Yacht, "guaranteed to sail." It has a metal rudder and adjustable cloth sails.
The kids had a wonderful time sailing the little boat, and yes, it did sail quite well in the winds over the sound. It turned itself and found the wind, and sent the kids chasing after it lest it sail straight out to the ocean all on it's own.

The kids love the Woodpecker Beach because they can play and swim in the calm waters without worrying about rough waves or currents. The water of the Sound is shallow far from shore, so the older, better swimmers can venture farther out. 

After swimming and snacking we all get the itch for an adventure and walk along the shoreline to see what we can find. There's all kinds of things to navigate around, over and under: fallen trees, cypress stumps, tall grasses. We keep on the lookout for crabs, turtles, osprey, eagles, animal tracks and whatever else we might find washed up along the untouched shoreline.  

A Tortoise Beetle. We found quite a few of these.
The blue damselfly was rescued by our oldest from the water's surface. She attempted to give it a dry place to recover when it slipped out of her hand and a golden dragonfly came swiftly along and snatched it up out of the air. It landed on a nearby bit of switchgrass and we watched it snack away.
Freshwater mussels we dug out of the clean sand. We just put them back after collecting them. In the past we have eaten a few, but they really have no flavor at all.
The kids had fun holding this crab. Their dad wrangled it out of the shallows for them. Usually we find blue crabs out there, but I am not sure what type this is.
Our youngest carried this beetle around for quite a while! After investigating the hinged joints between it's body segments, she said it's body smelled bad,so she put it down finally. 
Noah found lone dropped dragonfly wings all over the waters surface near the shore. We decided dragonflies must be predatory and cannibalistic; after seeing the dragonfly eat the damselfly, we found it likely that all the dragonflywings were leftovers after the meal.
Noah found this dead longnose gar in the woods.
Deer and raccoon tracks. We also saw bird tracks, turtle,opposum and mole. 
Little kids near the shore, big kids farther out,parents walking the beach. We felt like a family of otters.
Peace and Quiet....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where do pancakes come from?

Last September we were reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books, which gave us the idea to plant a bed of winter wheat in the raised bed we had recently harvested our purple sweet potatoes out of (ever the farmer!). We thought it would be wonderful to look out the window in mid-winter to see a perpetual patch of cheery green when most everything is dreary brown and grey. Then in spring, we would harvest the wheat and make bread from our harvest. So one afternoon we broadcasted wheat seeds upon the ground and turned them under with a steel rake. The kids had a great time keeping the seed from blowing out of the bed into the grass while fighting strong winds, and a few days later we were watching our sprouts popping up, in clumps and smatterings, evidence of our well-intended by ineffective planting prowess. Oh well, it would do...and it did.
Our wheat bed, all grown up.
All through the winter, the horses, chickens, ducks and goats took turns nibbling on the wheat bed. In spring we needed to clear a small section to ready the ground for cucumber plantings, so we allowed our saanen dairy goats, Violet and Sparrow, to take turns munching their fill.

Harvest day

Soon the wheat turned from green to gold and it was time to harvest. This day was hot and guess who was out there with a manual hedge trimmer hand-cutting the wheat while the children played in the pool?
Amber waves of grain, cut and ready to cure until time for threshing.

Threshing on the front porch, while listening to NPR's Back Porch Music. Heaven!
Even 3 year old's can thresh some wheat!
Threshing was fun for the kids. We decided to beat the wheat heads on the porch because I had saved the drying wheat just that morning from a rain. Also, the wandering Khaki Campbell duck troop were climbing up on the stacks and helping themselves, I really don't mind sharing but I just didn't want duck feet trouncing my wheat, or pooping all over it, so as usual the animals spurred me to action. Once the wheat was on the porch, well, it had to dealt with, right? So we got busy, with each child having a chance to thresh. It was fun to work together creating a beat and a rhythm like drumming. While much of the wheat ended up in the tote, an equal amount amount went pinging off in every direction. As much as I would like, Laura Ingalls Wilder I am not! No matter! We only wanted enough for some pancakes and maybe a loaf of bread, even if it meant we ended up reaping about 30% of what we sowed!

Carrying the leftovers off to the animals.
Nothing was wasted in this process. Even if it didn't get into the tote for us to eat eventually, our animals still benefitted from the process. After the stalks were threshed, the leftovers were carried off to the chickens, goats and horses for a treat. We also baled some and saved it to feed them another day. The chickens really seem to enjoy pecking and scratching to release the unthreshed seed.

Winnowing the grain with an electric fan.
       After the wheat seeds have been released from the heads through beating against the sides of the tote, you find mixed in with it a large amount of chaff and dried bits of stalk. This must be removed, unless you enjoy a bit of chokey-crunch in your bread! To remove this unwanted material, we winnowed the grain, which is basically pouring the seed back and forth in a stiff wind to blow the pesky bits away.


Clean wheat ready for grinding.

Cooperation was necessary throughout this whole adventure! Everything took muscle, from the sowing, to the threshing, and especially the grinding. Working together made the job more fun and more efficient.

Fresh ground wheat ready to make into pancakes,
mixed with eggs from our chickens and milk from our goats.
We made pancakes from fresh ground wheat from plants we grew ourselves, and we have enough leftover to make a loaf of bread. The kids had a blast and learned a lot from this experience-- farming, self-sufficiency, motivation, cooperation,biology, ecology, entomology, seasonal rhythms, resourcefulness, process, timing, patience, and how to make a pancake! It was difficult work however and I don't plan to ever do it again! This really makes me appreciate a bag of flour. I currently buy King Arthur brand flour and have since decided to buy organic winter wheat in bulk and grind it ourselves with an electric grinder. Spending $4 on a 5 lb bag of King Arthur now seems like a steal! You just don't realize how much work goes into something until you experience it for yourself.  This started as a homeschooling lesson for the kids, but of course, I learned a lot myself. 


The silver rain, the shining sun,
The fields where scarlet poppies run,
And all the ripples of the wheat,
Are in the bread that we do eat.

And when we sit, for every meal
And say our thanks we often feel,
That we are eating rain and sun,
And fields where scarlet poppies run.

~A Waldorf Blessing before Meals~

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Giveaway for "The Violet Sparrow" (on etsy) FACEBOOK FANS!

It has been quite a while since I lasted posted an entry on this blog, which was originally set up for close family and friends to keep up with our far-flung homeschooling family. I started this blog in 2007 and have not entered a post since 2009! whoops! I find it inspiring however to read shared information in the Waldorf community, so I thought it would be a good idea to get this blog going again, to get involved in sharing as well, for my own sake (keeping track of our days) but also to connect to other like-minded community from way out here where we live.

To kick of the re-boot of this blog, I'd like to pay-it-forward with a big show of gratitude to the Waldorf, Facebook and Etsy community for showing support of my fledgling business, The Violet Sparrow ( . I started my shop in August, 2010, and have had some wonderful success so far, which I truly appreciate! My passion is for recycled natural materials, doing good for the earth and creating for children. My shop is stocked with Waldorf-inspired goods from gnome playsets to slippers-I have so many ideas and am looking forward to stocking-and-restocking the shop and doing farmers markets in the spring and summer 2011.

And so, without further ado...a Christmas giveaway, to be given away on Christmas morning! The slippers will be completed and shipped to you just after the New Year.

Because this is a giveaway for The Violet Sparrow's Facebook fans, you must "like" the Violet Sparrow's page in order to enter, and then make a comment in the CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY post there. On Dec 25 my children will pull one lucky winner's name out of a hat and we will communicate with the winner on Facebook. Please search for The Violet Sparrow on Facebook, or cut and paste the following into your browser:

****For a second chance to win, please share my giveaway information on your blog as well, and let me know in your comment that you have done so.****

And that's it! One winner will have a new pair of custom upcycled slippers made for their child, age range from 0-4 years (up to about a size 12 toddler). Custom design and color scheme includes one of the themes pictured above: doggies, kitties, birds or bunnies, and color preference is dependent on what wool I have in stock. I will work with you to create a pair of slippers your child will love and which will keep him or her warm on these cold cold winter days! Merry Christmas!