Tuesday, April 28, 2009


You'll know this handsome drone by his big eyes. The kids love drones because they can't sting. Though they pretend to hate them because they are "honey hogs". They don't do any work for the hive, they just hang around eating honey. And they can live for a year unlike female bees who, except for the queen, work themselves to death in 40 days.
We've been lackadaisical beekeepers this spring. We hadn't worked one hive at all. It was bursting with honey. We intended to put in the queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs in our honey. Instead we just put the queen excluder on top and added a honey super.

The bees did not appreciate our intrusion. There were more than usual flying about and for the first time they went after the peaceful camerawoman (me). I got an angry one stuck in my hair, but managed to bat it out without getting stung.
Clem and Ev suited up to inspect the hives with their dad.

Even without the excluder frames like this one were all honey with no larvae. The honey now has a light, buttery taste. It changes with the different flowers in bloom.

A few weeks ago we worked the other hive. We discovered the bees doing this and were worried that they would swarm.
When we opened up the hive there was comb all over the tops of the frames. It was stuck to the cover and so we accidentally exposed some larvae. It was my first time working the hive and I was nervous, ok, not nervous, but really, really scared. At the sight of those poor exposed larvae I started to sniff.

Evelyn said, "Why are you sniffing? Are you crying?"
"I feel sorry for the bees."
Ever practical, she says, "It is like a skinned knee to the hive. Lots more bees than that die every day."
The comb with larvae was growing all over the top, preventing us from putting on the queen excluder. I had to scrape the comb off, sniffing all the while.
I gave the ruined comb to Clem.
"It's just drone larvae!" she says. "Look at the big eyes. They're just honey hogs. Some beekeepers kill them on purpose."

We put on the excluder and an empty honey super.
I take the larvae in to photograph them.
Greta thinks they're "Cute! So cuuuuute!"
She keeps making kissy lips at them while I am trying to photograph.

After I photographed them we fed them to the fish who seemed very happy. And I felt better that they hadn't gone to waste.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recipe for Homeschooling

I've been thinking for a while about my recipe for homeschooling. It seems that as someone who is Homeschooling in the Kitchen I ought to have a recipe. One problem is that it is not clear to me what it is I am trying to cook up. Are my kids destined to be beef stew or friable architectural desserts of spun sugar?

Cooking with the kids since October has made me realize that I am much better with stew

than sugar.

I'm a good improvizational cook but that I don't do so well with finicky recipes. I don't like to shop for the right ingredients. I want to throw open the fridge and the pantry and make do with what I find there. This doesn't always work out so well with airy fairy things like the meringues below.

And I hope my kids aren't fancy souffles because I am sure to slam the oven.


When it comes to homeschooling I've decided I'm like an ancient Egyptian baking bread. I make sure to stir in the essentials, I leave the batter to catch what is floating around in the air and occasionally accidentally knock in something heady and unexpected.

Then I mix it all together and hope for the best.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The End and A New Beginning

Evelyn and her group at our homeschool co-op finished Minimus Secundus: Moving on in Latinthis week.

The Latin club we joined last year to do Minimus: Starting out in Latin turned into a full-day co-op this year.

We have had so much fun.

The kids recorded a dialog from the final chapter. With luck you'll be able to listen to it (embedding audio is new for me) while looking at the cartoon. I can't recommend Minimus enough. It is a fun and inspiring introduction to Latin based on artifacts discovered at a Roman site in Britain near Hadrian's Wall.

Just as Minimus Secundus ended, but Pandora began a new life as a free woman, our time enjoying her world will soon end, when Clem's group finishes next week. But we'll be on to new and exciting things with co-op next fall.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wild Magic

Someone found my blog by googling psilocybin. I'm scratching my head about it because I talk a lot about magic and about mushrooms, but I have never (up to now) talked about magic mushrooms.

On a recent camping trip the girls got to explore a wide area on their own. I love to see their growing independence. One morning when most of the adults were still asleep a group of kids walked up a mountain to see the sun rise.

They came down happy, covered in dew, having seen the fog nestled in valleys and ready for breakfast.

They enjoyed unhurried time with friends.

Back at home we've been trying to make some magic in our garden.
We planted sunflower and morning glory seeds in a big oval to make a sunflower house and have been faithfully watering it every day, but I think the birds got most of the sunflower seeds. See the ratio below: one sunflower per 10 morning glories!

While packing for our camping trip I came across a bag of xylophone tubes and keys. I had planned to make a kinetic sculpture with them one day. But a few branches lying about suggested a frame. Evelyn and I built one and found a nice spot for the xylophone.
We nailed the xylophone keys to the fence.

Clementine's sculpture inspired by Andy Goldsworthy graced the garden for a short time before Greta, tempted by the cracking clay around the stones, crumbled and peeled it. It was meant to be ephemeral, but not quite that ephemeral!

I'd like the garden to be a place with a surprise around every corner. These are smaller, more intimate surprises than fog in the valley or the sun peeking over the far mountain, but I hope they will give the sense of place there to explore.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Clementine is Nine

I skipped a year or two in here, but here is Clem from a few days after she was born to a few days ago.


Running like the wind on her 9th birthday.

No Fossils, Plenty of Agate

This is the view from a hill just outside Lovelock, NV where we went to collect fossils and agate. Rains had made the jeep road to Fossil Hill harrowingly slippery so we drove out of town past signs inviting or perhaps importuning "Lock Your Love in Lovelock", took a short paved road past the freshwater diatomaceous earth mines, and then a dirt road to this spot where agate boulders and rubble litter the ground.
Clementine held a conversation with the welcoming committee, this horned lizard. The pronghorn antelope left calling cards, but declined to say hello.
We usually follow the motto take only photographs leave only footprints, so it was a rare treat for the kids to be allowed to wail on boulders with hammers and take the resulting fragments home.

I snuck off to get photos of birds I could hear calling down the hill. The birds eluded me, but I found a rare sense of solitude in a wide open place.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

We watched parts of Andy Goldsworthy's Rivers and Tides and then joined friends at the park to make some ephemeral nature art in the style.

Evelyn's daisy and leaf snake.

Greta's abstract symbol.

Clementine's ineractive willow branch spiral. It was great to see all the kids (and growunups, too) enjoying her spiral, running round and round into the center.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Too Much Folk Music?

So we've been listening to a folk music CD in the car cut by a friend's band that disbanded years ago. The song Country Life that the kids sang at the Talent Show came from this album. There are plenty of songs of love and loss.

Don't sing love songs, you'll wake my mother
She's sleeping here right by my side
In her right had a silver dagger
She says that I can't be your bride

This morning Greta grabbed a harmonica and began to play for me. When she was done she'd tell me what her songs were about.
"That was the Love Sad Song. There was a girl who loved a man. And then they married and then he left her. Just like in that dagger song."

Another "tune" soulful, eyes shut, swaying.

"That was the Scarlet Song. It is about a girl who died. She got shot. It was in a war. She was in the middle of the war saying stop. But they did not."

That song is a playful mixture of the folk music theme of the forlorn girl and the ravages of war we encounter listening to His Excellency George Washington.

Clementine says she can't stop thinking about the guy who "got his face shot off".

Maybe we should switch to Raffi and Rabbit Ears for a while?

Monday, April 13, 2009


Candles+beeswax+raw eggs+dye = stained hands+waxy floor+eggy floor+hours of fun

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Soup, Salad, Souffle

It was a busy week. The sorbet never got made. But the Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffles were a huge hit...with two of them. I know Greta will fall

into line someday. Really, how can you say no to a cheese souffle?

I'll have to get her more involved in the making. They are easy. The girls can make them (except for the final folding step which takes a bit of patience).

And you can make them ahead and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Pop into a 425 oven for 5 minutes and serve.

And for the soup we slaved over this Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup in a box.

No, Mike did. As I was running out the door, I whispered to him to pour it in a pot, heat and serve it as if it were homemade.

It went down to rave reviews.

I love that the kids like homemade food but it is sometimes a nice change to serve something nutritious from a box.

Clementine the Mad Chemist made the dressing.

I distilled our favorite vinaigrette recipe into general guidelines:

2 diced shallots
4 tablespoons of vinegar or citrus juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Clem chose to experiment with:
Four kinds of vinegar

Four kinds of salt

A dash

A pinch

A taste

Just right!

I came home to hear that Ev and Clem had devoured their own souffles, Greta's, the spare, their soup. Clem mowed the salad.

Greta had yogurt.

And they saved a souffle, washed and dried greens, and Clementine's secret recipe vinaigrette for me to have for lunch the next day.

The recipe for a happy mom is really no secret. A dash of loving gestures and a pinch of ready-to-eat delicious lunch is all it takes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hello! Hello! Hello, Sir! Video

Monday, April 6, 2009

Talent Show

As it turned out, Greta was not on the stage all by herself. She wanted to do a play. And since her rhyme was a dialog, she gave Clem half the lines. It was short and sweet (if you think shooting polar bears is sweet).

Greta: Hello, hello, hello, sir.
Clem: Meet me at the grocer.
No, sir.
Why, sir?
Because I have a cold, sir.
Where did you get the cold, sir?
At the North Pole, sir.
What were you doing there, sir?
Shooting polar bears, sir.
Let me hear you sneeze sir.
Kachoo, kachoo, kachoo, sir!

Maria (see comments to last post) came up to her and said something like, "You were fantastic!"

"I know!" Greta said. I just love the uncomplicated way small children accept praise. I also love that she wanted to wear a hat so that she would look like a "sir" but wanting to look like a "sir" was no way going to stop her from wearing a frilly dress.

After the show was over all Greta would say was, "Why didn't I get to hold the microphone!"

A true diva in the making.

Here are Ev and Clem and friends singing The Country Life. Ev is taking deep breath and Clem is holding up her hand to tell everyone how long to hold the Oh! in Oh! I like to rise when the sun she rises, early in the morning!

Oh!  I like to rise when the sun she rises,
early in the morning
And I like to hear them small birds singing,
Merrily upon their layland
And hurrah for the life of a country boy,
And to ramble in the new mown hay.

In spring we sow at the harvest mow
That's how the seasons round they go
but of all the times choose I may
I'd be rambling through the new mown hay.

In winter when the sky's gray
we hedge and ditch our times away,
but in summer when the sun shines gay,
We go ramblin' through the new mown hay.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Don't I Get To...

Greta has been jealous of her big sisters lately. Why don't I get to go to the big kid Tracker class? She's not old enough, and she does go to Trackers Tots. Why don't I get to have a sleepover? She creeps into my bed every night so she's just not ready for a sleepover.

When Ev and Clem and friends were practicing a play in Latin for a history fair she said, "Why don't I get to do a play?" It is so hard to be the littlest by five years. She's just not ready for all the things they do.

At the event the big kids did their play. They had a grand time. All the kids came from all their booths to watch. Then it was over.
The audience drifted away and the actors left the stage. Greta found a piece of silky fabric and began to dance. Her dancing caught the eye of the preschool kids outside. They crowded at the doors.

She realized the kids were watching her...

...and really started to ham it up.

Then her audience of little girls drifted away. She ran towards them saying, "Where are you going?"
Just then a group of little boys ran up and she resumed her happy dance.

Soon after we were talking about what Ev and Clem would do for the talent show today. Greta started right in, Why don't I get to... I thought of her dance for the kids and the joy she took in her performance and thought, she is ready for the talent show.

Today she'll be standing on a stage all by herself reciting a rhyme. If the rehearsal is any indication--she said her poem and then stared out at the kids waiting to rehearse their acts with a huge grin on her face--she's ready.