Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ah the Joys of Life

Apparently, I'm not so great at this blogging thing. I guess I'm more into living life than documenting it. But, here's a little rundown of the happenings on my little homestead.

First things first, my daughter finished her first semester of homeschooling. That is not the good part. This is the good part: she went from failing first grade when I pulled her out in December, to finishing SECOND grade by the end of May. You might say "oh, you're Mom, are you sure you're not biased?", and I have to say no I'm not when it comes to education, but I sure was surprised at how she progressed. We didn't go "by the book" as we learned, we just tackled all kinds of subjects, whatever struck our fancy, be it mythology, religions (plural), bugs, brains, the Mayans, maple syrup, or world history, with the necessary ones worked in and made relevant to whatever the interesting one was. As soon as she mastered a thing, I gave her something more challenging. To be honest, I was nervous. I was afraid she would fall short on something... especially in math. At the end of the year, I prepared tests for her at one day per subject, based on state standards for first grade. To my amazement, she passed all of them with 100 percent. So I thought to myself,  that stuff was what we did months ago... I wonder..., and looked up the standards for second grade. All except for cursive writing, we'd covered those subjects too, so I prepared tests for second grade level. She passed with all A's except one C, and that was math, our mutually hated subject. So much to my surprise, in September we are starting third grade, and planning to supplement the Prairie Primer with lots of extracurriculars. This should be a fun adventure!

I have also been following both the trademark debacle and the one in Oak Park too. My veggies are in front of my apartment, even on top of walls in plain sight. In my city, people love that. Apparently in Oak Park, they are evil unless hidden in the back yard and anyone who defends them must be persecuted. I bet those city workers never ate their brussels sprouts as a kid...

As for my garden, it has grown and flourished. I have harvested 21 pounds of vegetables since March. I have a gallon bag of green (and yellow and purple) beans, a quart bag of blueberries, a huge bunch of swiss chard, a few onions and many more close to ready, more hot and sweet peppers than I can keep up with ( I have strings and strings of multicolored cayennes hanging to dry) and have been kept in very diverse salads and tomatoes all summer. The garlic is being slow, but coming along. Still no zucchini, for some reason I only ever got male flowers, and the corn didn't do so hot either. But, all in all, the big experiment went well, and now I know what does well and what will have to wait until I move somewhere else. In August I will begin constructing big cedar planters to replace some of the plastic pots, which have cracked on occasion and some proven to be just too small. Here is a view of the garden from 2 months ago, and a few more recent snapshots of tasty things nearing their peak :)

June 1st, just before it really took off.

Herbs a'dryin. I now have twice as much... I don't think I'll ever need to buy bottled ones again!

Tomatoes ripening on the windowsill overlooking my little oasis of green.

Swiss Chard, oh how I have grown fond of you! You will be tasty, I know it!

I also learned how to make laundry soap, out of necessity. My fiance and I had to use separate detergents because each was allergic, hives and all, to the other's, and it annoyed me to have to separate everyone's wash. Here is the recipe I use, and it works fantastic!

Powdered Laundry Soap
3 bars (12 ounces) Kirk's Castile soap (really any castile soap will do... I hear Fels Naptha laundry bar that Dial makes is good but I am allergic to fragrances in it, you'd use 2 of that)
6 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda, this is a yellow box and sold with the laundry additives)
6 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
2 cups Baking Soda

Using a stainless steel box grater (like for cheese) finely shred the soap bars. Mix well with all other ingredients in any medium sized plastic or glass sealable container. I personally use an empty cat litter bucket.  To soften clothes, take a Downy ball and fill it to the lowest line with white vinegar, toss in the wash with the clothes. This also helps prevent any kind of buildup from your laundry soap, and the smell does not stay on clothes. You could also add a few drops of essential oils that are safe for putting directly on skin to the vinegar ball to gently scent your laundry.

That's all I can think of for now, but perhaps I will blog a little more often from now on. I seem to update my facebook page www.facebook.com/oururbanhomestead a lot more than I do this!