Change of Seasons

Bare branches stretch skinny fingers to the sky, like hands outstretched to the sky reaching for the lush foliage they held just a week ago. One swift windstorm was sufficient to strip the trees of their royal robes of red, bronze, and yellow, and now they must stand in their poor man’s bark. The landscape is scarcely recognizable from the cheery golden sight a week ago. The forceful autumn gales have painted a winter scene along the city streets.

On the other side of town, a house encases a vacancy which a week ago ran over with a thick stew of life. In one corner elbows jostle till a fight ensues, and cacophonous voices spill into the hall. Another corner guards a muffled conversation, hushed till mirth wins out and unfettered laughter bubbles over. The sound of many stories woven one upon another. Now it is merely a shell, separated almost even from the memory of the people who called it home. The rooms stand bare, imagination struggles to replace everything the way it had been before.

A new chapter begins, a new season. For them, and me. They seek new adventures half a continent away – California will be their new home.

Our Family’s Favorite Outdoor Wilderness Adventure Books

Books for boys can be hard to find, but when I asked the young men in our family which ones they couldn’t put down, they had plenty of answers. Here was the favorite stories about wilderness adventures and the outdoors. This category holds some of the boy’s most treasured tales


Middle School Outdoor Books for Boys

My Side of the Mountain


Fall Garden Wrap Up

The brightest flowers from the garden are fading, so it’s time to gradually undertake garden cleanup. After locating the garden shears in the ever shifting garage whirlpool, I started cutting back the excess foliage this week while the sunny 65 degree days last. Of course, the weather decided to be contrary, so I haven’t been able to make nearly as much progress as I’d planned.

Late summer Rudebeckia flowers show some of my favorite autumn colors.

Though this year I put little time into managing the vegetable garden, there was a sizable crop this year. The raspberries that have had lackluster production for many years sent some runners into the old compost pile. In one season they became the most prolific species in the garden. Two ‘Big Boy’ tomatoes in bottomless 5 gallon buckets also produced way more tomatoes than we can eat. The only difficulty was the number of tomatoes that split open for the insects after summer rainstorms. I will have to be more proactive in picking ripe fruits before we receive four inches of rain.

Daniel, Dominic, and Joseph helped me make several new stepping stones this year.

Two out of the three grape plants planted way back in May of 2015 came into their own this year with the first notable crop of fruit. The surviving varieties were Edelweiss and Bluebell-hardy seeded grapes with lovely names.

Two large bowls were filled from the harvest. A friend showed me how to can the grapes for juice, and after a days work cleaning and canning we had ten pints to show for it!

The compost pile and the worm box also were major successes this year, and we’ve never processed as much material before.  Four or five yard bags of leaves fueled the worm habitat over the winter, and with only slight attention (adding a bit of water and stirring about once a month) all had turned into ‘castings’ by spring- the most nutrient rich and microbially alive super fertilizer available naturally.

The tiny masters themselves:

The local coffee shop dedicated a box for me when I called to ask for their used grounds for directly around the plants:

I have a slightly strange fascination with decomposition. I’m not sure if it started during my presentation on fungi for the science fair in 6th grade, or later on when I started trying to figure out the best source of compost for growing vegetables. Either way, I’ve started several compost piles that had more fresh material than dried, and weren’t able to get an active composting process going.

This year, however, we had plenty of leaves to mix with the rest of the non-meat kitchen scraps, which made up about 1/3 pile. We mixed these with a few more bags of dried leaves. The resulting pile was about four feet in diameter, and two and a half feet high. The size meant that a lot more turning and watering were required to keep both air and water evenly dispersed throughout the mix. I usually enlisted John’s strength to help me with the heavy lifting, and pulled in more than a few of John’s friends when they were around. It was really interesting to watch the process, as for weeks on end nothing seemed to happen, but then one week I came out to turn it and found there was not a single recognizable scrap of food visible; all had broken down into a light soil.

A surprise pumpkin grew out of the compost pile (the final resting place of last year’s jack o’lanterns). The richness of the compost manifested itself in the size of the vines, which outpaced all other foliage in the vicinity.

Baby pumpkin

The pumpkin stands almost a foot tall on the family porch, to the younger children’s delight.

Late September Daybook

Listening to… Cicadas, lawnmowers and wind through tree branches. Steady, lulling sounds of summer.

Wearing… Favorite summer tee, with the addition of a light jacket. Cooler temperatures forced me to dive through piles of warmer wear

Reading… I just finished Shakespeare’s Tempest, an entertaining first time read. Though the plot was not as deep as the dramatic tragedies, the text was as full of the Bard’s introspective wisdom.

Thinking… about making coffee.

I am thankful for… The medical technology of the day. With just over two months of working at the hospital, I have already seen many lives that would never have been the same without the emergency skills and resources

From the kitchen… Landon decided a pumpkin pie was in order, and baked one at a whim at one in the morning.

I am creating… working through the instep on my first pair of knit socks. I’m not sure if the proportions are turning out as well as they should, but I’m very happy after ten years of knitting I finally know how to ‘turn a heel’.

Homeschool Motivation and Routine Tips

Motivation, productivity, consistency. Homeschooling offers incomparable flexibility, However, there’s not always the external forces present to keep a routine. And sometimes life just gets in the way. Key elements in a homeschool life, but oh so elusive. As a highschooler, I struggled on this when. It’s not that I’m not organized or motivated. the motivation to achieve a 3.9 GPA in a rigorous liberal arts nursing program, I couldn’t always find a way to  maintain my routine to its full potential. Subjects I liked got done, but the harder or nonessential ones often fell by the wayside.  I felt there was so much wasted time.

I had a few glorious exceptions to this rule. My geometry program, which I  studied daily until the book was finished was one. I dedicated a certain part of my day to getting it done, linking it with breakfast and coffee, and before I did any reading.

I look at what the circumstances around things getting done in the past. Then I try to recreate those and see if

There was a program I really wanted to try out with my. It was also summer, and I knew this reduced the chances that a routine could be set up and kept. So I decided to try out one, manageable trick to help maintain the routine.

I noticed things that happen in a designated place got done. in a large family house, even the dedicated school room had many distractions and activities going on. I decided I needed a designated spot outside the house. Our local library had a study group room that worked perfectly.

I also wanted to link a positive reward. After our schoolwork everyone picked a book and we went outside and read on a bench behind the library. The summer sun and soft wind created a picture perfect scene.

“Sandwich” Method

This special routine was linked only to our writing and reading comprehension work time. Soon the boys looked forward to the weekly session. The high-schoolers weren’t super happy about the work day arrangement, but they did get 3 times more work done contained in the library than at home. Like a sandwich, squished or linked together between two separate activities. Going to the library, designated schoolwork, wind down routine reading books (still an educational and productive activity).

A Spoonful of Sugar

I have noticed that children love, love, love routines. They love predictability. The summer library schooldays were extremely successful. My brother who doesn’t like reading even began to read books on his own after being introduced to it in this way. I believe this is because the routine was linked to our routine of leaving the house to a designated space for a designated purpose.

Neither Here nor There

On my mind:

A very full summer. Students have just marked the end of the season with the return to school, but only the temperature is changing for me this year.

The Job. The first six weeks were tumultuous to say the least. There is so much on the job learning in the field of nursing, and there’s so much that you never even begin to learn about in school. Responding to changing scenarios, interacting with other professionals, and working advanced technical equipment keeps each day extremely different.

Running. I never thought this would be me. If you told me three years ago I would be starting this activity I would never have believed you. Still, distance covered is nothing spectacular, but the consistancy has been there since May.

Wading through all of my childhood belongings that have arrived at my personal dwelling, as the family prepares the home for showings, and hopefully a sale. My room is filled with boxes in the process of sorting.

Fall: Food. Decor. Leaves.

Days off alternate between long and lazy, and frantic and  filled with long walks in the outdoors. Hopefully a formal recap of some summer highlights soon.

Creating a Nature Collage

Fern prints, earth tones, and songbirds, Oh My! Nature walls and tables are a trendy standby, yet far from cliches as there are unlimited possibilities in arrangements. My homeschool family we grew up in a culture of nature journaling and collections. Nature tables are a great way to collect and display these finds, related books, and small souvenirs from travels. It also helps keep them from getting dispersed throughout the house.

Audubon paintings are in the common domain can be found and printed off at A friend gifted me some gorgeous spare frames from her attic, and several matched my favorite avian watercolors. I also try to include some living plants as a backbone to the arrangement.

Three rules I follow when arranging make a difference in the  visual appeal:

  • Arrange similar colors together, sticking to a few, complementary colors for the majority of the items.
  • Try to work in sets of three or five, odd numbers always look best.
  • Arrange different shapes so they would create a triangle if you connected the dots between them.

DIY Worm Compost System

Materials I used to make my Vermicompost bin
  • sturdy plastic tub with lid.
  • Drill for making holes every 3-6 inches apart, about two inches up from the bottom.
  • screen mesh
  • Spray Adhesive to spray on the inside of the bucket after drilling the holes, to keep the residents from escaping.

(design courtesy of my father, the weekend engineer)

Putting it all together

I filled the bucket with moistened, loosely shredded cardboard egg cartons, black and white paper scraps, dryer lint, and dried leaves (these are the best!). Then I added some vegetable kitchen scraps and the biome was ready to receive the new arrivals. The red worms came by mail- one pound of them to be exact.

Worm castings are often marketed as black gold since the richness of the nutrients and live microbes fives unparalleled nutrition to plants. The price gives another reason to treat it as treasure. Ever since I started a to learn about the worm compost system, I’ve had a hard time just throwing away coffee grounds and banana peels. One man’s trash can be turned to treasure.

I had varying amounts of fertilizer from the box. The more established they were, the more I got! After I had mine for three years, the worms processed 4 bags of brown leaves in one winter. When I forgot to feed them regularly, they would usually go into hibernation and I would only get a few cups in a few months.I had to watch for escapees during the first weeks before they adapted to their new home. There were several close calls when I first started the box, and I spent an hour returning the migrant nightcrawlers to the bin. Any vegetable matter can go in the box, but definitely no raw meats, citrus fruit, or onions. I brought the box inside when temperatures dipped below 40 degrees.  The material will compact as the worms do theirs work.  To start a new batch when the current soil is nearly black, scrape most of the castings to one side of the bucket. Add more of the base material, and the worms will migrate that way over the next few weeks.


Summer Days

There are now no homework assignments due, papers or reflections to write, or textbooks to pour over. I graduated over a month ago, but for nursing candidates degree completion means more studying. The dreaded NCLEX-RN exam that we have been hearing about for four years approaches. I did well on a few practice exams in school, so I wasn’t extremely worried until I started working through a study guide and realized I hadn’t looked at half of the topics for over a year. Frantic studying ensued.

But the exam date came, and I passed, and I have just enjoyed my first full week of holding an official RN license. I now enjoy a month until starting a new position as a pediatric (children’s) hospital nurse. In contrast to the stiff schedule I maintained while holding two jobs and a rigorous honors choir practice schedule, I’m enjoying a more relaxed nannying job for the meantime. And taking many long walks in the summer sun. (It’s the midwest. It won’t last forever.)