August 23, 2016 § 17 Comments
Cool mornings. Shirt sleeve mornings. From the kitchen window, I watch steam rise off the compost pile, wraith-like. On Sunday I found Blood, our rooster, hanging upside down from one his massive spurs; it’d somehow gotten caught in the wire of the coop, and he’d hung there for lord knows how many hours. Too many. From a distance I thought for sure he was dead but he wasn’t, it was just that he’d struggled the struggle right out of himself. So I freed him and set food and water before him. He ate and he drank, and two days later, just when I thought he’d probably make it, he died.
You never know what the future will bring.
I’ll be taking some time away from this space to attend to other matters. I’m sure I’ll be back before too long. In the meantime, thank you. I really appreciate all my readers.
August 17, 2016 § 4 Comments
Beautiful rain last night, long and steady and soaking, and I slept in that way I always sleep on rainy nights, never fully waking to the falling water, but often aware of it, coming into consciousness just enough to surrender to the pleasure of falling back out of it. It’s like getting drunk a half-dozen times in one night. Except it’s free. And no hangover!
This is another logistical post to announce two upcoming workshops here at Lazy Mill Living Arts. I will be leading both of them, which I mention primarily as encouragement for those of you who might think you don’t have the stuffing for these endeavors. Because if I can do it, lemme tell ya’, you sure as hell can, too.
Onto the workshops. The first is:
Most of what you need to know is on the poster. The rest of what you might need to know is that the workshop runs from 9 – 5 on both days. It is BYOB and BYOF (F for food), though we will have simple snacks available (fresh fried pig tail, anyone?). You are welcome to camp on our land, but it will be very primitive… If you’re lucky, we might let you pitch a tent. If you have any other questions, please email me at email@example.com.
Ok, up next is…. Building From the Land!All details are pretty much the same as for Bacon Camp, minus the fried pig tail. Again, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
I also want to give a plug for a workshop that’s going to be hosted at my friends Ryan and Susan Hayes’s place in nearby Hyde Park, VT. It’s being led by another friend, Lisa McCrory, who’s partnered to one of my favorite curmudgeon’s, the indomitable Carl Russell. Lisa’s workshop is on the art of agricultural dowsing, and I’d probably go if I weren’t so afraid of being exposed to things I don’t understand. But you are presumably way more open-minded and should DEFINITELY attend.
August 15, 2016 § 13 Comments
As I mentioned a while back, Heather and I spent a bunch of time this spring and summer talking (and talking, and talking, and then, for good measure, talking some more) about our respective paths with home education. We had no particular agenda for these conversations, other than to candidly share our experiences in a format that felt comfortable to us both.
This was incredibly refreshing and rewarding for me; for all sorts of reasons, I don’t write much anymore about our family’s educational journey, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to share that journey, especially with someone who understands well the particular joys and challenges of walking this twisting path. Although her family’s path has in many ways been very different than ours, Heather understands; indeed, I found that some of the most interesting conversations centered around the ways in which our journeys have diverged.
The result of all this talking – followed by my fumbling attempts to manage the audio-editing component – is a project we’re calling Home Grown Education. Although there are aspects of this project that would qualify it for “workshop” status, we’ve taken to calling it an “offering.” This reflect its conversational nature, and the simple fact that neither Heather nor I has any intention of telling anyone how to educate their children. Neither of us believes we have this all figured out, and both of us are struck by the degree to which our children’s education has become our education. And we’re still learning. All. The. Freaking. Time.
Anyway. Although this offering is audio-centered, there’s a bunch more to talk about. Here’s what’s going on:
- Four Episodes – In total, you will find close to 4 hours of audio recordings. In these recordings we talk about Our Respective Homeschooling Paths, Socialization and Community, Joys and Challenges, and Looking Toward the Future. (The fourth episode will be released mid-September, all others are available now.)
- Q&A – Over the winter Heather solicited homeschool related questions and we answered many of those throughout the episodes.
- Archive of Writings – We have pulled together an archive of our education related writings* so you can have them in one easy to use, beautifully designed, digital resource. Within this near 50 page ebook you will also find a section of printables that Heather has utilized over the years; everything from planning the homeschool week to writing transcripts. She’s also included a full list of her curriculum, representing 7th grade through high school, with her thoughts on each item.
- Community – We look forward to offering a space where we can interact in a setting that is more private than our regular websites.
- Support – To me, this might be the most important aspect of this offering, because of course we all need support from time-to-time, and no more so than when we make big decisions about our children’s lives that are seen by some as “alternative,” if not downright questionable. Bring your questions, and we’ll do our best to provide honest and encouraging answers. (Feel free to bring concerns too… we love hashing out a good homeschool related concern.)
- Join Anytime – This offering and the accompanying website will remain available for six months (until 2/15/17). We will pop into the comments a few times per week throughout this time, to connect and answer your questions.
If this sounds intriguing to you, we’d love to have you join us. This project has been a true labor of love for both of us, and we’re really excited to have it out in the world.
You will be emailed immediate access to Home Grown Education upon purchase.(Email will be sent to the address associated with your Paypal.)
August 14, 2016 § 11 Comments
This morning I drove the back roads home from Jimmy and Sara’s dairy, the bed of the truck carrying soured milk for the pigs, the air still heavy with the remnants of yesterday’s storm, the news radio doling out its too-familiar tales: Gold medals and handguns. Burning cars and swimming stars. Politicians I can’t make sense of, though maybe I should try harder. Or perhaps I should try less hard; maybe that’s the trick.
I turned the radio off and listened instead to the sound of truck tires on the wetted gravel road, the splash of water at the puddles, the lowing cows at the farm where a fence runs along the height of a hillside pasture, wires and posts etched against the sky. I always watch that fence when I pass, and I pass it often. And I thought of the young man who drowned three days ago at the pond a mile down the road from my parent’s house, the house I grew up in, 15, maybe 20 miles from here. I learned to swim in that pond, and I recalled this morning how once a friend and I were messing around there; I was in the water and he was on the shore and he lobbed a softball-sized rock in my direction, meaning just to splash me, but his aim was too good, or his arm too strong, or both, and I could see the rock coming for me as if I were calling it in. I was trying to run but too slow because running in water is always too slow, so at the last second I dove, scared and sure of injury, and indeed the rock fell directly atop my back, but I was deep enough that it hardly hurt. My friend almost cried, he felt so bad, and I told him it was ok. But man: I was pissed.
Back home the pigs get their breakfast, and I stoke the fire for another coffee. Firewood today, I think. It’s not going to be summer forever.
August 5, 2016 § 31 Comments
We drove home from the Davy Knowles concert in Northampton late Wednesday night, the stroke of midnight nigh and many miles still to go, the boys crashed out in the rear seat in that folded-over way of sleeping children, my window cracked to admit an invigorating rush of air. I generally don’t mind driving, though my capacity for long, late hauls is waning with age, and as I drove I thought (and not for the first time, good lord no) about my obligations as a parent. Because although we’re all huge fans of Davy and of live music in general, there’s no way I would’ve driven so far to see him of my own behest. (Though we did end up in the front, at a table that was literally pushed against the stage, and we did end up meeting Davy, which for us was akin to meeting someone truly famous, like, I don’t know, one of those people who go on TV and stuff. And the concert kicked ass. So there was all that)
And so as I drove I pondered yet again the fine line between facilitating my children’s interests and flat-out spoiling them, a line I can’t quite seem to nail down, the damn thing seems to be always moving this way and that, depending mostly on my mood and general sense of magnanimity, which is itself an inconsistent beast.
I do believe that in general our society has become overly child-centric; there seems to me too much focus on our children’s development, too much capitulation to their whims and fancies, and, frankly, way too damn much coddling. I think partly this is a response to our very understandable fears about our children’s economic futures, but I think it’s also a response to a largely-unrecognized hole most of us have for a deeper and more meaningful sense of community. In other words, we focus so intently on our kids because we need them to be the community we’re otherwise lacking.
I’m pretty sure this is one of the potential pitfalls of home education; that in our well-intentioned efforts to facilitate our children’s interests, we go overboard, and in the process diminish the very sense of self-reliance so many of us home educators like to crow about. No doubt this happens in a schooled environment, too, but of course my children don’t go to school, so that’s not what I know or spend too much time thinking about.
As many of you know, Heather and I spent a bunch of time in conversation this spring, working an audio-based workshop about our respective journeys with home education; it’s launching real soon. One of my favorite of these conversations was one we had about “averageness,” and how there’s something to be said for honoring averageness, for teaching our children that it’s ok to not be or feel particularly special, and to understand that they’re really just a part of something much, much bigger than themselves. It was a much more nuanced conversation than that, of course, but that was the gist of it.
After we had this conversation, I remember thinking about how many homeschoolers fall into the trap of comparing their children to their school-going peers, eagerly pointing out the ways in which they compare favorably, as if that were some sort of proof of something. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this, too. And really, it’s understandable: I think homeschooling parents often feel on the defensive, as if they have to prove the merits of their approach, in no small part because skeptics so often demand they prove the merits of their approach. And I think homeschool parents feel as if their children are a reflection of themselves. I mean, every parent feels this, but I suspect those of us who’ve chosen to educate our children at home maybe feel this more more acutely. Of course, this is a trap, too, because our children are their own people, and I suspect we’d do well to worry less about what their behavior and choices say about us as parents, because I think that the more we worry about this, the less capable we become of letting them find their own way, in the process learning how to muddle through the occasional shit of life the best they can. Which is a pretty darn valuable skill, when you think about it.
Anyway. I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. Like I said, it was late, and I was driving, and my mind was free to wander. So I let it.
Also, I wanted to let you all know that I’ll be leading an intensive homesteading workshop at the NOFA Summer Conference next Friday. I’ve done versions of this workshop before, and it’s always been a blast, and a great opportunity to dig really deep into whatever folks want to dig deep into. Please come if you can!
August 2, 2016 § 22 Comments
Yesterday’s rain was long and steady, rolling through in waves of varying intensity, rarely relenting in full, and even then only for minutes at a time, as if merely resting. Early in the morning I haltered Otto, our two-year-old steer, and then stood with him by the paddock gate to keep him calm, the rain falling atop us both, my jacket soon soaked through, Otto’s russet coat wetted two shades darker. The boys brought me a plate of eggs to eat while I waited, then retreated quick to the shelter of the house. I balanced the plate atop a fence post and ate with my halterless hand, and soon after I finished eating our neighbor Dave arrived and placed a perfect shot, and the work began.
I liked that boy, Otto. He was a gentle one.
Killing Otto yesterday reminded me of this post, from a couple of years back. It’s one of those rare pieces I wouldn’t do any differently now. Man. I sure wish I could write more of those.
The ever-lovin’ Sheesham & Lotus & Son.
Son Volt’s Windfall (thanks, Heather!)
July 31, 2016 § 57 Comments
The photo above is of the house I’m sitting in right now, where the wood stove is spitting out just enough heat to perc my coffee and, soon as I’m finished writing this, fry a couple eggs. Maybe three; I’m hungry. I like a fire on these cool mornings that don’t really need a fire. It won’t be long before I don’t have the luxury of choosing between fire and no fire.
The view of the house is on the way back from feeding the pigs; they’re at the height of a little knobbed hill we’re clearing for pasture. You can’t really see it, but between the lens of the camera and the garden, there’s a steep slope; not long ago, it was densely wooded – spruce, mostly – but I cleared it this spring, piled the brush in windrows, and then we planted blueberries between the windrows. Forty of them, I think. They’re doing pretty good.
I guess it’s not a very flattering photo of our home, but it’s an honest one. You might be able to see that many of the windows don’t match; that’s because I bought all but two of them used. One of them has a big crack in an upper sash, but I got it real cheap, and we’ve sorta gotten used to the crack, hardly notice it anymore. We own the siding – spruce clapboards stacked inconveniently in that little nub of a room poking out the south-faced gable end of the house – and it’s nice to think about covering up that tar paper, but it’s been difficult to make a priority of it. Thought it would happen this spring, but it didn’t, then thought it would happen this summer, but it hasn’t. And this fall is looking pretty full already. Ah, well. Keeps the taxes down, I suppose.
We started on the house almost exactly a year ago, maybe a little less. We’d just finished getting tin over the barn, which we’d made a priority because we hoped to get the roof on in time to stack the first cutting of hay under it. We made it with three days to spare. At that point, it was clear we probably weren’t going to get the house closed in by winter, so we spent another couple weeks making the upstairs of the barn kindasorta livable, and that’s where we stayed for the first three months we moved up here. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t too warm, either.
It’s remarkable to me how quickly and profoundly humans can remake a piece of land. A year ago, that house site was a piece of woods, that garden space was under a thicket of wild brambles, and if I’d taken a photo from the same vantage point, all you would’ve seen is a wall of trees. Gone, now. We’ve taken over, I guess.
This house is less than half the size of our previous home, and despite its still-rough edges, I like it better. It’s simpler, more humble, feels more manageable. No one seems to miss the extra space, though I don’t think we’d want anything smaller. We’ve got somewhere around $35k into the house, and could probably polish all those rough edges for another few grand. So it’ll be a $40,000-ish home by the time it’s finished. It could be done cheaper, for sure, by someone with more time and resourcefulness than we possess. Then again, it could also be done a whole lot more expensively.
I’ve written about this before, and I know it sounds sort of strange, but I’m ok with knowing that someday, this house will be gone. Rotted right into the ground. Someday, all the land I cleared, the trees I took, all that stuff, will return. Or at least I hope they will. I guess I have this sense of us merely borrowing this place, arranging it to suit our temporary needs. Maybe our kids will stay on or maybe they won’t, and maybe our kids’ kids will stay on or maybe they won’t, and maybe somewhere along the way someone will sell it to someone else, and who knows what they will or won’t do with it.
For now, though, I’m glad to have this tight roof over my head. I’m glad for the cook stove fire, coffee burbling, bacon grease heating for eggs. I’m pleased about those little berry bushes on the hill. They’re not much to look at now, but in a few years, they’ll start bearing like crazy. Come to think of it, I’m glad, even, for that cracked window sash. Because when I stand in front of it, everything looks just a little different.
Musically speaking, today I’d like to introduce John Moreland. Please, please do yourself a favor and give a listen. If you can honestly tell me you don’t like it, I’ll send you… hell, I don’t know, but something.