Friday, 28 August 2009

Give these pets a tri (op)

And here we have The Triops...

Triops about 5 days ago:

and trips now (trying to lay eggs in the sand):

and triops having a chat at Starbucks:

I can highly recommend these pets: they don't eat much, grow to full size in 3 weeks, then they lay eggs and die just as the novelty of having them wears off. What more could you ask for in a pet?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Tubs, cobs and carrots

I intended posting up a few photos of our house-blitz, the decluttering frenzy, several days ago, but actually there's not alot to show for the days of work we've put in. Yes, the piles of stuff are less, and there is some sense of order in some areas, but, well, more decluttering needed methinks.
In amidst the decluttering dd and I decorated tubs with marbled paper that we'd made a few years back, with the idea of using them for pens, paint brushes etc. There's something a bit OCD about boxes and tubs with labels on, but it is oh so satisfying dont' you think? I think it's a sign that it's nearly Autumn; around the time I have an irresistable urge to buy stationery and colour-code the lego (or something else obsessional).

The kids spent Saturday having a sale of toys, books and games that they'd cleared out from their room. All day they sat at their stall outside our local corner shop, bless 'em. They'd made £18 by the end of the day, which , added to a further £11 I made from selling the educational items they were keen to clear out of the boys' bedroom (!), makes £29 in total (I'm good at maths, me). Anyway, they're planning to buy some gamecube controllers and memory card to enable them to play gamecube games on the Wii.
Allotment is productive at the moment, despite the weeds. Beetroot fab, carrots getting there (some carrot root fly, but not too bad so far), spring onions the size of golf balls, and new rows of mange tout and dwarf french beans coming along nice. Potatoes? Well I'm getting back more than I planted (just), which is a novelty lol.

The Italian courgette plants given to me by fellow allotmentee (yes, I didn't kill them off after all) are going into overdrive. Long crisp courgettes on climbing/trailing plants. And the plants seem resistant to moulds (so far). No way I'm going back to traditional British ones after this:

Successful carrots:

Sadly, the tomato plants which were looking so spectacular only a few weeks ago have been hit by blight and were destroyed almost overnight. If you live in a blight-free area and grow tomatoes then consider yourself lucky. I've been nurturing these plants since February and just when they get to the point of being productive the leaves turned brown, the plants collapsed and the fruit turned black and unusable. Same thing every year...

Tomato plants in July:

And tomato plants in August:

We've picked the sweetcorn, lovely sweet juicy cobs. Didn't bother to freeze much of it this time as the kids don't seem to like it once it's been frozen.

Some of our crop:

The leeks are looking poorly. Some I think have been hit by onion white rot, which has hampered our veg growth in previous years. Others are throwing up flower spikes so are mostly useless. It's a shame, as we rely on them as a staple winter veg, but the kids will be pleased that they wont be getting leek and potato soup every week!
I have other news too, including the boys' latest obsession in creating animations/games using the free software scratch, our new additions (fish) and the growth of our monster triops (still alive and swimming), oh and jam making sessions.
But maybe more of that tomorrow. I think I can see you yawning [am I boring you?]

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Life is just too exciting...

We seem to have had a manic week of clearing, decluttering, labelling, tidying etc. The frenzy has built up gradually, starting with the boys' room, then dd's room, then the conservatory (leaning tower of craft junk and cupboard). Of course all the rubbish from the kids' rooms has ended up on my bedroom floor. For some reason that seems to happen everytime we have a clearout...

Anyway, today was the most exciting of all. I was labelling tubs with 'elastic bands and paper clips' and 'marker pens' and 'staples'. Sometimes I wonder how I cope with such a high-powered, buzzing, fast-lane existence.

Anyway, photos tomorrow.
What? You don't want to see photos of my decluttering? Tough.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Er. No title. Couldn't think of one.



(our family superhero)

She's pretty mean with a power drill

And with a bit of help from a masked marvel...

We have


complete with it's own back garden (no decking, but with a small water feature i.e. drink bowl)

and someone already has their beady eye on it...

'So that fat bird gets the new coop and I'm stuck with that old one. I'm going on strike!'

So, the coop was finished on Sunday, just in time for the eggies to arrive from Ebay on the Monday and be popped under Mrs Broody.

I had to pick up the eggies from the sorting office as the postman had stuffed a card through the letterbox (bring back my old postie, please!). No doubt the staff helped by chucking the box labelled 'fragile' around the sorting office, warming it with a blow torch, eating their lunch off it,before sticking it in the fridge [hmm...can you tell that post office staff aren't in my good books at the moment?].

Anyway we travelled back from the sorting office on Monday with the eggies on the centre seat between the boys while we drove for about half an hour to pick up dd from a play date. So there I am, yelling 'Mind the eggies! Mind the eggies!' as the boys are hitting each other over the heads with half-litre bottles of water. I do wonder sometimes if I am responsible enough to look after baby chicks...

Anyway, on the Monday we made candles. I'd picked up a large candle-making set from the local swap shop, which was mostly complete except for wicks (which dh bought in town).

It was all fairly straightforward: measuring out the wax, colouring it, melting it, putting in the wick, pouring wax in the mould, cooling the candle, topping up the mould with a bit more melted wax and voila...

Pretty cool eh? And almost for free (except for the cost of the wick). We love Swap shops.

Anyway in the afternoon I decided to give the children a few more hours forced labour lol (at the allotment). Actually I offered them some pocket money because it was a tough job. They had the task of clearing some of the weeds off our second plot, where the potatoes are. I never give my kids pocket money, don't really believe in it, so they were almost motivated.

And I have to say that it did look a lot better afterwards. I could even find some potatoes to dig up. Hopefully it will keep the allotment Weed Police at bay.

Ds2 used the extra pocket money and went and bought a lego star wars set today (Tuesday). He then lost one of the droids from the set at the sailing club. Ds2 admitted later that he'd 'dropped' it down one of the pockets in the pool table! [I have my suspicions about how 'accidental' this was, but would like to give my children the benefit of the doubt]. So this involved a return trip by dh and a slight dismantling of the pool table. And all ended well. It did. And I'm feeling calm. And tomorrow will be better.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Cruelty to dogs, chickens and postmen

Ok, it's your own fault. If you roll yourself in lumps of wet stinky chicken poo, this is what you get:

and there's no way I'm letting you dangle those clean ears in that bowl of dog food:

Looks like Mrs broody hen needs some 'me time'. Once again the other 3 hens have to camp out.

And...the postman complained about our front path. I guess he didn't like wet vegetation slapping his legs. Serves him right for wearing shorts if you ask me (I know you didn't)
I did concede and cut the borders back a bit, but I do hope that means he will actually deliver packages rather than knock, stuff a card through the letterbox and run before I have time to answer the door.
We did like our old postman, who would do everything at snails pace and always had a fag break before doing anything, but at least he would stuff the packages behind the recycling bin if we were out. And he even used to say 'hi' to the kids.

Oh I do love to be beside the...SEASIDE???!!!

Yesterday and today I was woken by seagulls at 5am (actually, to be precise, yesterday it was at 4.30am). Lovely you might think, waking to the sounds of the sea, the crash of the waves on the beach, seagulls welcoming you to the British seaside. Except that we are about 80 miles from the nearest bit of coast, probably as far as you can get from the sea in the whole of Britain!

What are they doing in my back garden?! And at 4.30am?! Go away!

Maybe someone has secretly created a refuse tip behind my house. Oh yeah, that's our garden, I remember. Which reminds me, must have a clearup and take a load of stuff to the tip; we've had a standard lamp in the garden for almost a year now and it's not as if the neighbours think we're normal anyway.

As I was in need of displacement activities (I have lots on my jobs list that really really need doing) I've decided to build a chicken coop. Another chicken coop. The plan is to get some fertile eggs, pop them under our broody hen, and Bingo! have some chicks. Well that's the plan. Except that I can't find anyone with fertile hen's eggs and I've got to put this coop together.

In theory it should look something like this (with doors of course):

With the idea that I will attach a small run to it either at the front (easiest option) or maybe at the side (more difficult because of the sloped roof). The end bit which is open but covered should be good for a bit of shade if I decide to use the coop inside our current run when chucks are bigger. Might even fix a perch in it, but then again, I've never known a chicken use any of the perches we've provided up till now, so that will probably be a pointless bit of engineering.
So, after looking all over for some fertile eggs I've finally conceded and ordered some off Ebay, a mixture of coopper maran and light sussex eggs. I'm assuming these are full size breeds rather than bantams, but I guess we'll see when/if anything hatches.
So I have to get a move on with this coop and rally the troops into assisting me. Of course we all know that home education is a cover for forced child labour, don't we..? (that's a joke by the way, in case any Badman supporters are reading).

And I don't even pay them the minimum wage (but they do get board and lodging for free).

And in case you wondered, yes the lawn is now striped with wood preservative.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Wishes really can come true...

When we attended a local music festival back in July there was a 'wishing tree', a branch where anyone could hang up their wishes. I mentioned it to the kids when they asked what it was, and then never said any more. A little while later I noticed ds1 walk over write something on a piece of paper and hang it up. This was it:

Ds1 has really caught the music bug. His sessions at a local montessori school have inspired him and over the past few months his guitar playing has gone from strength to strength.

Then, at the summer party at the montessori school, I discovered that he has been busy developing another talent. At the end of the children's performances there was an 'open mic' session and ds1 (look at the back) and his friends took to the stage.

So afterwards I said to him in astonishment 'When did you learn to play the drums?' and he replied 'I learnt it myself.' (!)

The wonders of autonomous education eh?

Apparently he'd had a go on the drum kit at the montessori school only once or twice before. Of course at home he bashes away on tamborines, taps on the dashboard of the car as we drive along, bangs on cuboards and tables etc. And all that time he's been learning...

SMUG home ed moment

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

What do you have on your table?

Perhaps you have this...

(dd's trainers with the dog rattles stuck in them)
Or one of these...

(Triops eggs in water)
Or perhaps a few of these...

(plaster of paris moulds and brooches)
And how about several of these....
(Airfix model planes)
Not forgetting one of these...
(Quartz crystals and a potassium salt solution to grow crystals)
Plus the pieces of one of these...
( a semi-dismantled remote controlled car)
And then perhaps a few items from the leaning tower of junk shelves...
And perhaps you have all of it on your table at the same time and it might start to look like this...
As you can tell, we've had a busy day...plaster of paris, airfix models, setting up a triops tank, starting a crystal kit, taking apart a remote-controlled car (plus reading out a few chapters of 'Dragon in the Cliff', driving out to see if we could buy some fertile chicken eggs, baking pizzas and bread and trying to sort out the shelves in the conservatory). I'm shattered! So much for a quiet day at home!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Straw into gold (or sheep into thread)

"To-day do I bake, to-morrow I brew,
The day after that the queen's child comes in;
And oh! I am glad that nobody knew
That the name I am called is Rumpelstiltskin!"

Today we had a go at spinning.

We got together at a friend's house where a very capable friend of hers showed us how to use a spinning wheel.
The hardest part for me was the multitasking, i.e. concentrating on keeping the wheel spinning, while dealing with feeding the fleece in at the other end. You wouldn't think with years of home educating experience that multitasking would be a problem...welllll...One foot is supposed to be peddling while the hands tease out the fleece, feed it into the spool, and make sure that the twist doesn't work its way back into the bundle of fleece and tangle it all up! Easy, eh?

Ds2 had a go and was a right little Rumpelstiltskin, even managing to join in the fleece again when the thread broke. My attempts were, well, let's just say that I need the practice.

Rumpelstiltskin in action
I also had a go on our drop spindles which have been kicking around the house for some time now. One was borrowed from preschool when ds2 was there (about 4 years ago); I've never got quite got around to returning it (oops!). We were given a sack full of fleece at the same time which has been residing in the garage ever since because it smells - quite naturally - of sheep. [mental note to self: must do something with that fleece]. Anyway, the resulting thread from today's drop-spindling is what we generally refer to in our house as 'rustic' or 'full of character'.

Yesterday we exercised the kids at a local nature reserve, taking a picnic and a few bags for anything they happened to collect en route (they always come back with something, don't they?). We found some complete shell fossils that had come loose from the sides of the quarry, and a dried up (slightly crunchy) beetle, which I think is a female stag beetle. There were loads of butterflies, some photos below. (For some reason my camera is having trouble focusing close up at the moment, well focusing on anything other than faces, so apologies if they look a bit fuzzy).

Poking in the water. I'm not sure what for, but there were some pretty big fish jumping around.

Posing under the 'lightning tree'

We're such fungis to be with (groan)

Crispy stag beetle (yum)

Layers of fossilized shells

Painted Lady butterfly

Peacock Butterfly on a scabious flower

Some sort of moth I think. Not big enough to be a tiger moth, so I'll need to look it up.

And what does the canine member of our family think about all our recent goings on..?

I could have been a movie star...this is just so degrading.