Friday, April 30, 2010

The Cabin

Back in the 1950's, Moose's great grandparents were looking to build a place out in the islands off the northern coast of Washington. Each of the islands has a unique name to itself, but collectively they are called the San Juan Islands.

image from San Juan Island Directory
To give you an idea of where in the world the islands are, here is a handy map. This is a map of the greater Puget Sound area. Seattle is in the lower right hand corner of the map. See the Straight of Georgia? Just below the "a" in "Georgia" is a mass of islands, those are the San Juans. To the right of them is Fidalgo Bay and Anacortes, WA, which was just in the news a couple weeks ago regarding the Tesoro petrol facility explosion. There is a state ferry that services the island from Anacortes, otherwise the only other way to get to there is by personal watercraft or aircraft.
I can only imagine that the islands were even more of an oddity back then, as the number of rich people building their summer houses out there was so few. Sady, now a mansion is a dime a dozen out there, especially on the water. But the cabin....aaah, i'd say it has more charm and worth than any of the big fancy houses. As Moose says, the cabin is a family treasure.

What little bit of the story i know is that Moose's great grandparents were looking for a place to settle down when they dreamed of building this cabin, a place their daughters could bring their families to visit. Moose's great grandfather brought his great grandmother up here to live in a tent for a year through the whole construction process. And with the kind of driving rain and winds they get in the islands, that is a fact that is hard for me to phathom--living in a tent in the San Juans in December. Oy! However, they were used to some of the harsher living conditions. Moose said at one point, his great grandfather was a tailor in a one of the Pac NW logging camps. Some of the materials they used to construct the cabin were recycled from other construction projects around the island at that time. Some of the foundations are cedar tree stumps from trees they cut to clear the spot for the cabin.

It's located on one of the numerous bays in the area, which makes great fun for the boaters in the family!! You can walk right out the front door practically, step in a dinghy and row to one of the majour attractions on the island.

Now, all this coolness and seemingly luxurious lifestyle comes with a price. It's not like Moose's family are a group of spoiled island hopping yuppies, or anything. The cabin is rustic, and by that i mean when you are staying here, you are basically participating in glorified camping.
The cabin hasn't any running water or electricity, save a car battery hooked up to a flourescent light above the dining room table. The only heat is a wood fueled stove. There is a propane stove and refrigerator and a sink.
My favourite feature is the outhouse! The view you get while taking care of business is amazing. Only drawback are the nights when you forget to cut your coffee consumption by 2pm. You could find yourself ankle deep in 'coons on your way past the compost pile to make use of the facilities.

The inside of the cabin is exactly how i would love a little cottage set up at our farm when we find it. Well, except that i would like our cottage to be up to code. Basically, it's all one big room with compartments.

The kitchen/dining area

The kitchen is a favourite of mine too! So cozy!
Just look at that sink and those metal cabinets!

To the right of the dining area is one bedroom.
This was Grandma's bed when i joined the family and started coming up to family reunions at the cabin. This is where we made sure Cookie Monster slept while we visited. Now she enjoys telling people that she slept in her Great Grandma's bed during our stay.

On the other side of the room from the dining room is the living area.

Next to the couch is another bedroom.

Cozy quarters, especially with an energizer bunny for a kiddo.
But oh so wonderful and special a retreat!
We just love how it's a place that is frozen in time. It's something you can always rely on. And it means planning out meals and snacks to bring with us, carrying all our water in, creative packing for easy "grab and go" early morning showers at the marina, which is a 5 minute drive away. Mainly, it's just nice to have a spot that is so quiet and filled with a variety of animals and activities that you can escape to every once in a while.
Beats living under the flight path south of Seattle, i tell ya!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hooray For The Tulips

I finally did it!  I successfully raised dark purple tulips! 

And better still, I've successfully successively planted them too.  In both spots where just at the beginning of the month I was admiring the white tulips I planted, the whites have faded just as purples are blooming.

Hip, hip, Hooray!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

State of the Homeschooling Address

It's really not as bad as it seemed, i've reckoned. Couldn't be in any way worse than public school in our neck of the woods anyway. Taking a break from the blog during Lent, i took a break from auditing our texts and just tried to focus day by day. Heck, at one point, Lil' Bit got to head to ID with her grandparents and they learned her some schoolin'. Boy, she loved that! Especially because Grandpa required an apple for the teacher before he gave his lessons. :o)

Now, as the "1st year mark" approaches (we started this gig back in June '09, as Cookie Monster was bored with summer break after just a couple weeks and I broke down and bought her a math text), i feel it is time to take these next couple months to reflect on where i feel we need to go, what we've accomplished, and what we've still to complete so we can work on our academic goals of an 8 year old student.

First, what we've accomplished.

We have finished 1st grade grammar (punctuation, types of sentences, covered nouns & verbs, and memorised 6 poems.) We have 90 lessons of 2nd grade math down, with 42 to go--C. monster is getting into multiplication now! We are only 14 lessons in on history's 42: bring on the Israelites fleeing Egypt, the Greeks and Romans overtaking the pharaohs, and the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.

We are rockin' the science and religion...only a few body parts left to go in human related science and the botany portion will be in our summer classroom: the garden. The religious ed class has been fantastic! Our deacon was quizzing Cookie Monster last time we saw him at Mass, and he was impressed with what she could answer. He was testing his test questions on her, i think, so now he has to make all new ones. :o) Yeah, can you believe it? A Catholic church giving a test to it's "Sunday schoolers." And my bro-in-law and the deacon aren't foolin' when they say that if the kids can't answer the questions, then they get to repeat the year! It's refreshing!! A far cry from the R.C.I.A. meetings i had 10 years ago where they were recommending we read the Left Behind series instead of the catechism or for that matter the actual Bible.

For the next couple months, I need to figure out a plan. We are severely lacking in the arts. Granted, helps me cook a lot, which is good, but drawing and music need their equal time too. We also need to purchase about a library's worth of books for reading time and copywork. I've picked up some E.B. White and C.S. Lewis along the way, but most of our texts are in storage that could really be helping her now.

So i am delving into books on the great artists like Renoir, Rembrant, Degas, Pollack, and Monet. I've come to a road block as i have maxed out my holds list at the library. Oh! to live in a big city (instead of a crappy suburb) where 1 library was big enough to hold it all. :o) We've also invested Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. It looks wonderful--basic principles of drawing have been broken down into 5 elements of shapes. We're both very excited about this book.

We're also looking at piano theory. As a former grade school violinist myself, i would love to have take that up, but since we have a piano right now, we might as well make good use of it.

Another place we've been lacking in is writing and copywork. When we first started school, she was less than enthused to use a pencil, so i didn't push it. If it's one thing i know about my kid, it's that you can't push her to do something she doesn't want to do--you can't even guilt her into it. When you try, she whines....and whining is about my #1 peeve, so we just didn't do it. Today, i started her on copying an excerpt from The Trumpet of the Swan. Since i am stuck on our spelling program too, i've decided to start having her write the rules of grammar to place in her folder--today was "q always needs a u" and "c makes the /s/ sound before E, I, & Y". After we finish the rest, i think we should go over the phonetic alphabet and then start the program. The trouble is that the program is so full of minutia regarding markings that i am getting too overwhelmed. But the program (and suffering) will be totally worth it when my kid has a college freshman level vocabulary when she is 10 years old.

The biggest thing i need to work out is a schedule. Here i thought it would be practical to stick to a typical American school system schedule, when really, it's ridiculous to push that hard for three months off in a row and you're going to have to review most of the final lessons from the year before. So, we are going to spread out our time off...i just have to figure out how to do it. And as long as C. monster still gets bored after 2 or 3 days of taking a break from school, there is no way we'll ever take off too much time. :o) It would be nice to have a good break in the fall and no school after the first week of December, and maybe a few breaks scattered between March, June and August. All things that need to be considered over the next couple months.

Then, it will just be the big hit to the pocket book when we acquire next year's texts. Oy! But much cheaper than a private school education or a stupid kid who can barely hold a job at Starbucks because they need someone to physically explain to them which end of the cup the sleeve will fit over, especially once the coffee is in the cup. No foolin'.

Today I planted

2 more rows of sugar daddy snap peas

1 row bright lights swiss chard

A patch of scallions

And last week, I planted one broccoli start and two broccoli rabe starts, as when I planted the first of those rabes and turned away for two seconds, the chickens devoured it.  Good news though,  1. It's growing another set of leaves and 2. Our old tomato cages make a good chicken trap. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Busy Lil Bee

Boy-o, what a busy week we had last week! We celebrated Moose's birthday in one of his favourite spots in the world: his family's place in the San Juan Islands. It started with lots of shopping and creative packing. Then come departure day, we moved to lots of semi-idle sitting like this.... Cookie Monster read her magazines, Moose read the paper, and i crocheted some granny squares along the way, so it wasn't completely idle time, but it was nonetheless a typical morning's drive from south of Seattle to Anacortes and a bit of a wait at the ferry dock. Yawn! Well, all except for the part between Mt. Vernon and Burlington where there are gorgeous little farms along either side of the freeway and a few creeks and rivers that will provide me with an endless supply of names for my barn cats, when i have a barn. Would couldn't love a mouser named Skooumchuk, eh? Too bad the freeway had to be built in between such a picturesque ag area, but that is a rant for another day, eh? Another rant for another day is about the state's K-9 units patrolling the ferry docks--officers walking the dogs up and down the aisle, encouraging the dogs to sniff under all car bumpers and in wheel wells. When did that become o.k.? After the dog and officer went up one side of our car, i conducted a little experiment and stood outside my vehicle. Next time they headed down towards the car, they skipped us. Huh.

It was wonderful just to get to the cabin...especially since it required such an early departure to get the last a.m. ferry ride to the island.

And after lots of ferry boating, there was much row boating done by Moose and Cookie Monster. It was her first time in a dinghy and first time rowing. What do you think? I'm not sure if she enjoyed it or not.
(too bad i am still so inept with a camera, because if this weren't overexposed, it would be the best picture of the whole trip!)
As you can imagine, there are plenty of stories, pictures, and such to share. Enough to last a couple weeks anyway, when combined with my daily ponderings i'd like to share: my dream job, my developing love of Dylan Ratigan...well, his brain and his rightly pointed anger at the U.S. Gov't--we should all be so angry and vigilant (but then they'd think we were French--did you see the French farmers took their tractors to the streets in protest against commodities markets and the gov't? I think they'd be busy with planting seed this time of year, but hey, what do i know? I'm not a French, a farmer, or a French farmer. They might want to be careful what they ask for, or they could bring the plight of the US farmer their way!!) and the surprise i fell in love with that we found in the cabin this time!! I'm still behind in my gardening posts too. Ei yi ei!
However, during my Lenten break from here, i am happy to report that homeschool is back on track, along with other tasks around here. I really missed reading everyone's updates though!! Still no new news on the home-buying-front--things are getting sucked up so fast with the hype about the $8k credit charade ending and the "possibility of mortgage rate hikes". Only things that are left are newly constructed crap-mansions with plenty of acreage under power lines or older crap-mansions with plenty of acreage under high voltage powerlines. So, we sit and wait, patiently....inhaling the 2nd hand smoke from our neighbours and averting our eyes from the bikini baristas at every turn from our home. Aaah, what a life!
Tomorrow, i promise, much less sarcasmism and tons more pictures--that may be in focus even! :o)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wishin This was me house

Dr. Office (a treatment cafe)  san Juan islands.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One Of Those Days

We've been roughing it the past few days.  The cabin has no electricity, no running water, but it does have an outhouse.  :o)

I love taking this vacation, because I can give myself a jolt of humility-correct my thoughts that I could actually live like this indefinitely -- off the grid as they say.

However I have a question to ask might be a revolving sort though, and your comment could be "beware of vicious circles" or rather chicken vs. egg-ish. 

Does all the living off the grid we've done the past few days get wiped off the records when I paid another $1.50 this morning for a second round hot water at the marina's showers just so I could stand under it? 

I needed it though you see, as when I stepped out from my first 5 minutes of hot water, proud (read: full of myself) that this was the second day in a row that I beat the shower clock, I promptly knocked my nice, clean, dry, "only towel I brought with me" towel in the toilet.

In the infamous words of Charlie Brown...


Friday, April 23, 2010

Living the good life

Enjoying our escape from reality...

Hoping you have a wonderful weekend too!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22

For some, today is a day to do earth-friendly deeds: park the autos and use alternate means, plant trees, pick up trash from roadsides or beaches, or at the very least figure out some craft to reuse all those cds or cottage cheese lids. For us, we thankfully have something else to celebrate today to keep me from becoming to cynical about the whole concept of Earth Day.

Moose's birthday is today. He came along just before Earth Day was even an event. And the irony of all ironies is that he is an environmental engineer to boot. Personally, I think he became an environ eng because hearing people wish him a "happy earth day birthday" keeps him in stitches. Each year, after work, there is always some work party he's scheduled. This year, he was mulching trees while C. monster and I were putting the finishing touches on Irish cream cupcakes with Irish cream filling and chocolate ganache.

To Moose: happy birthday to my sweet baboo. Hopefully by the work you do, the earth will be taken care more than just one day a year.

We are taking Moose to one of his favourite places tomorrow-and no, unfortunately its not Ireland. Be back with pictures soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just in Time for Visitors

I finished up the area yesterday....

and the new little arrivals seem pretty pleased with their new "playground"--
fluttering from tree to trellis to currant, then darting back to the feeder on the deck
for a quick nibble or two
this little one above is helping me with the last of the grass clean up....he's welcomed back anytime! :o)

It will be so enjoyable come July when the sunflowers are almost as tall as the deck rail, the scarlet runner beans are topping the tower, and there will be birds flying about everywhere!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Renovating the Garden

to our Celtic Cross Garden!
What's more welcoming--the dalmatian sign or those cheery little forget-me-nots, eh? Just one of the many things i love about Washington....forget-me-nots seem to sprout up everywhere as soon as the days start lengthening again!
We spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon working in the garden.
Gotta get that curb appeal in shape, you know?
Unfortunately 2/3rds of this garden looked like this....
until yesterday. (This shady side will be needing lots of TLC the next time we schedule a weekend for garden tasks. I'm thinking 1 or 2 more evergreen huckleberries--4' plus maturity in shade, but am in need of some other ideas for mostly shady garden plants. Here already are ornamental poppies, hollyhocks, a white currant, and a blue hydrengea.) Any ideas??
We are working from the street side in and got this
portion in the foreground weeded, planted, and mulched. As you gardeners know, those perennials can really add up!! Sheesh. Especially when you try to add edibles in there. So, i am hoping with an insane amount of mulch and a scattering of annual seeds and clover after our last frost date, we can fill it in enough so that weeding in this area will be a thing of the past! (Especially important because Moose would like a boat for his birthday this year. Ei yi ei! Or maybe i should say, Ahoy, oy, OY!) :o)

The red current, alliums, purple cone flower, and the savory were already here from year's past, and entangled in this whole area was dandelions and chickweed. We added an evergreen huckleberry, one "Fancy Knickers" carnation, "Queen Alexander" orientmental poppy, and a transplanted volunteer purple Alpine tulip.

This morning, on the other side of this bed, where we put in the plum tree last weekend, i'm finishing cleaning out the weeds and planting more perennials. Now there'll be "Red Clock" Alpine tulip, "Summerwine" yarrow, "Green Globe" Artichoke, shrub rosemary, and a lipstick strawberry for ground cover among the alliums, snapdragons, and the pink peony that is there. I am thinking i might erect a trellis next to the tree there for some peas or bean too. Maybe scarlet runner beans for the hummingbirds.

In the paper bag is a varigated lavender and there is another oriental poppy, artichoke, and strawberry left to plant. I'd like to find some more purple cone flowers to fill in. Especially since i noticed on Friday that the gold finches are consuming the old seed heads from last year.

Man, this garden is going to look really nice--here is a shot from our deck that overlooks it. I think it will end up being one of the only things i miss about our place if we finally move.

Just means we'll have to replicate it on a larger scale wherever we go, eh? :o)
But i'll be smarter there, we won't actually build the parts out until we can plant them up right!

P.S. Did i ever mention i absolutely loath dandelions?!?!? Especially because the kind we have the most of are the fuzzy kind that the chickens don't like.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Kid's Gonna Be A Mathamatisher!

Cookie Monster had a little trouble connecting the dots on her math work the other day. In a problem, 10 boxes were provided, 5 were shaded and the questions posed were wondering what fraction of the number were shaded vs. unshaded. She was able to identify that, but she didn't write them in fraction form. So i worked with her on that today. All done, no problem.

And the beauty of homeschool is that right at the moment, i could connect a few more dots for her that she'll learn a little later--the simplest fraction forms where you turn 5/10 into it's simplest form. She, of course, knew it was 1/2. Smart cookie. Then she tried to impress me a little bit more with her knowledge of fractions:

"And you know what else, Mom? I also know what those numbers are called. The number on the top is called the numerator and the number on the bottom is called the 'debombinator'."

How could i look at her and not laugh??! It took a lot of restraint, and i also couldn't bust her bubble by tell her that she had to tweak that word a little. We'll get to that later!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Houston, We Have Lift Off

Upon my return from Idaho for Easter, the seedlings had hatched and were looking a little leggy. Cardinal rule of seed starting, i learned, is have the light nearby--and no a window doesn't count. :o)

Some of the overachievers that sprouted a whole week before their siblings are really, really leggy. Then i got the wise idea to move them to the stove top and use the hood lamp. Well, it worked a little bit, and i am pretty sure the heat from the nearby oven helped the tomato seeds finally break their dormancy, but having these seed trays in your kitchen on your stove of all things, isn't the most handy (or desirable, eh?)
Enter Moose.
He kindly brought up his desk lamp and placed it lovingly over the seedling at their new home on top of the piano. Now the procrastinators that have waited this long to shed their seed caps are growing thick, strong stems. Lesson learned. :o) Listen to the experts!
Something that will have to wait until we move, but is a high priority for me to complete is a seed starting bookshelf plan i saw in the Apr/May issue of Mother Earth. It's like a nightstand, except that there mounted above the bottom shelf is a flouresent light fixture. Looks really handy for making seed starting in your home more streamlined and not so cluttered. Of course, if we find a place with a green house, then.....i'll consider myself to have dodged a bullet, since i haven't really had a ton of experience with power tools. :o)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tulip Time!

Thank goodness the weather is finally shaping up so we can head outside to enjoy these beauties.

And you know when it's time for tulips, it also a good time to participate in another long awaited Springtime activity....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Today I planted.....

An Italian prune tree & 2 lbs German butterball potatoes.

As plans stand now, we're trying to clean up the Celtic garden with perennials. I'll need to acquire a couple lavender, a heather, and 3 poppies. Also a rosemary will be planted in there. Hoping that will cut the amount of digging/weeding is required each year while providing food and shelter for beneficials as well as some food items for us. I am hoping the poppy variety "ziar" (the edible poppy seed producer) will survive our winters.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Today i planted.....

1- 2ft row "Early Snowball" Cauliflower (Ed Hume)

1- 2ft row "Buttercrunch" Butterhead Lettuce (Botanical Interests)

1- 2ft row "Parris Island" Romaine Lettuce (Ed Hume)

1- 2ft row of "Sassy Salad" Mesclun (Botanical Interests):
(a blend of arugula, lettuces, spinach, tatsoi, chards, endive, and mustards)

Inbetween my "Candy" onion sets (from the local nursery), i sowed "Little Finger" & "Rainbow Blend" carrots (Ed Hume)-- a little trick i read in Great Garden Compansions by Sally Jean Cunningham.

A second planting of "Olympia Hybrid" Spinach (Ed Hume)...

and a second planting of snap peas: my "Sugar Snaps" (Ed Hume) previous planted on 02.15.10 didn't have the greatest germination rate (maybe there are about 6 plants out of a whole 3 rows running 6 ft. long that i can find that sprouted)...our temps were mild enough, but i think it was a package i had around for 3 - 4 years. Expected, eh? So i've replanted a 3- 2ft rows today with "Sugar Daddy" snap peas from Irish Eyes.

Note to self: succession plant with other open lettuce packages before tearing into "Red Sails" lettuce, as it is listed as a "heat resistant" variety.

Also, for this weekend: plant taters; shop for dwarf, self pollinating plum tree and other plants like lavender, hardy herbs, and Icelandic poppies for celtic cross garden; mulch rhubarb.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This Is Great! Amen!

Have you seen An Open Letter To Conservatives by Mr. Russell King?

I highly recommend it! Frankly, it and all the links provided within should be a required read for anyone voting in their next state election.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Humbled By Unconditional Love

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

And with those words, he breathed his last.