Friday, September 9, 2016

Homeschool (with a 6 year old, 4 year old, and 11 month old).

Ok, so first of all, lets be honest. I'm only posting this because I've accumulated some photos, and I'm finally feeling like I'm doing more stuff with the kids. That's insecurity speaking. Nevertheless, I've been enjoying hanging out with the kids and feeling a bit less frantic. I'm afraid to sound too confident, lest we be launched into the trenches again. 

There's a few useful tools that are helping us do well at home at the moment. First, the library. We get 20 books every Monday: picture books, chapter books, 3 or 4 encyclopedia like books about topics that Noah and Eli are into. The boys do not read, though we have dabbled in teaching them it felt forced, so we just continue to read to them a lot, so long as Hana doesn't start ripping up books.... As far as younger children ripping up books: I've tried the decoy book strategy, where I get old books that were picked up free from somewhere... you know those books that are either racist, about 1990 computers, written in German. Those ones. She sometimes obliges, but often it's all about getting attention, and her lack thereof.

The animals and the farm form a part of our learning. We watch them and cuddle them and care for them quite a bit. Hopefully next week our first set of ducklings will be born. I hope so!

Then, Eug has been doing various things that the boys love: including a story game with complicated characters that have evolved over a year, X-Wing (a table-top game), and electronics. They look forward to Hana's naps when they can do stuff like this.

We've also been using a Spielgaben set quite a bit, which we got a little under a year ago. It's meant for toddlers through middle school, and the boys are getting to an age where they really enjoy doing a couple of lessons a day. I generally am not drawn in by toys that claim to make your kids smarter, but I guess we got pulled into this one. I like it because it's open ended, but there are also a ton of lessons-- enough that I can always find one that the boys would really enjoy, based on whatever they're interested in. My weakness is that I don't really let the kids continue to play with stuff over multiple days. There's not a lot of free play, because when I tried free play there were tiny pieces everywhere and I found it very, very hard not to freak out. We clean up every night, and right now my sanity is the main reason. I think the time will come when I'll be a lot more flexible, and the kids will be able to follow their interests over many days. 

And of course, the mainstays: LaQ blocks, legos, and train tracks...

Dude traced Africa for Eli.

A case for goats...

Hana learns that baby rabbits are extremely fluffy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

August: Ducks on eggs, lots of toads, legos and bees

I don't know how it came to be the end of August, but it is so here's me writing to tell you (tell myself) how it's been. 

At the beginning of August, my dad came over to check if our hive was full of honey yet. It wasn't, but it was still fun to know where we are at, and that in a while we will have honey. I'm very much hoping this spring/summer we can get our second and third hives set up and stable. In related news, the municipality (City of Cape Town) has been spending August spraying Roundup in our area, on verges and public spaces, which is a herbicide that seems to affect the foraging behaviour of bees (and definitely affects what they can forage, as one of the main sources of nectar at the moment is wood sorrel. Though I try not to be too alarmist, using a poison in order to make things look neat is counterproductive at best.  Our ward councillor has taken up the case. 

 Hana will be eleven months old in September, so we're heading out of the drowning that is the first year, and into the (hopefully) treading water that is the second. This winter there was a lot of  lego...

Noah at the clay cafe. He broke his bowl over a year ago, so it was awesome that he was able to paint a new one!

Naughty chicken. Our chickens are constantly trying to figure out get food from us. We must be easy foraging.

Baby girl started walking.

Electronics: proof that we're actually doing stuff with the boys, occasionally.

Our reservoir is more than half full. We don't really have a plan at this point, but we have a lot of toads and tadpoles, which we catch and release multiple times a day (to no apparent ill effect).

Some of our ducks are sitting on eggs (others, we suspect, will be sitting soon). They hide their eggs rather craftily-- one is sitting well under the container and has completely concealed their nest.

Big time climber
Noah's first fully independent baking attempt, macaroons.
In a dark twist, we've been collecting masses of snails from around and about for chicken/duck snacks. Enough to reduce our feed costs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July: rooster lunches, chicken palaces, fencing, transplants

In July we found ourselves with a rooster who would not work for our flock. He was a bit of a jerk, perhaps due to our own measures of jerkiness, but still. He was also very small, and could not be the genetic future of our flock. Someone had a very large rooster (Boschvolder X Potchefstroom koekoek) that they were getting rid of, but first we had to say goodbye to Bruce... the whole process took a while (killing-scalding-plucking-eviscerating), and I cannot imagine us doing it more than once in a while. Eating him was a new experience for me. This month I had to kill a rat, and an injured mole rat. I didn't feel like we had much choice in either case. The rat was not going to join my favourite NGO, and sending rats over to neighbours seems like a bad idea. I did feed it to the chickens, at least. So anyway, it was a big month in the world of taking animal lives. Not enjoyable, but somehow this-- eating stuff, killing stuff-- is the way the world works in some deep way, and it'll make total sense one day in heaven.

[Okay, so now you can skip over while I preach about stuff I know little about (and carefully avoid the fact that it was Eug, not I, who did the actual slaughter): After some years as a vegetarian, I've come to terms with eating some meat, as chickens and/or ducks seem to be integral to a/our farm. I want to eat meat that I have killed myself, for many reasons. One of which is that I think this is where our high wages should not mean that we get to hide what we are eating by paying someone (very little) to face things we cannot, or to do the hard work of raising food. I think of myself differently when I am spending time to figure out some of the many needs I tend to pay to have fulfilled (petrol, solar, food, water). ]

Bruce is the rooster on the right corner. RIP.
This the paint-bucket kill cone for Bruce. He was not super tasty, but it was a good learning experience, and look at Henry II, who replaced him!
Eug made this bigger chicken coop to allow for more chickens. We're still having some problems finding  their eggs, but hopefully we'll figure it out.

One of three avocados. We have three different varieties (Hass, Ryan, and Fuerte). 
Elderberry grown from cutting. It was in a really grassy patch, so I transplanted it and put it closer to the house, where the grass is not so bad.

Ducks loved the reservoir until it got fenced in. We should probably let them in now and again, but for now they just have a little kiddie pool. 
Macadamia tree -- can you the shoots popping up at the top of the picture. 
dressing up the guinea pig. She doesn't seem to mind. You should see them trying to dress Hana.

Now and then Noah makes a ducks and chickens restaurant, and goes around feeding them scraps.

The fence for the annual garden is up. Exciting times.

It was unseasonably warm for a few days in July, so Noah and Eli could actually body surf and swim a bit! I didn't have their bathing suits (it's mid-winter!) but they didn't care. This is Soetwater, our second-closest beach (closest beach is Kommetjie, but it is a bit busier with dogs and stuff, so we come here for the rock pools, even if it's too cold to touch the water). 
Hana, with Male the Muscovy for scale (or vice versa). Hana insists on being let down to crawl around. Thankfully our devil thorns are already a lot less prevalent than they were last year. Lots of mulch seems to have helped.

Here's Henry II, our new rooster. Isn't he handsome? Five of our hens are Boschvelders, and 3 are Lohmann Browns. We're hoping they'll have productive egg-laying babies. Boschvelders and Koekoeks are both good mixed-breed birds, whereas Lohmann Browns are egg-layers. They have great big eggs. While we're mainly interested in having a self-sufficient laying flock, we do also want to be able to eat our roosters. Though not Henry. He would eat us first.
fowl meet and greet. Trying to introduce Henry (after his 1 week quarantine) gently, over some yummy grain.
Letting Hana roam a bit with the boys, while I dig a hole or mulch or haul compost... feels like good work. The landscaping waste is starting to show real benefits-- and the chickens get a fair amount of food digging through it. We also still get a box of leftover produce from a farmstand nearby. It keeps us in vegetables for the week, and allows us to greatly reduce our feed costs. And we have had a lot of rain the last couple of weeks. Our reservoir is starting to be pretty full, though I don't really have a plan how to use the water over the summer...

Hana chilling out after climbing terrifyingly.