Saturday Garden Work

Saturday found us back out in the garden, and once again Jonathan and the Blessings acomplished a great deal (pictures below). We have also revised our garden plans for this year a bit.

Midway through Friday’s garden labors, Jonathan remarked that he was realizing that a gardening method like we are implementing this year is really best if it’s built a bit at a time. I smiled and agreed. Then we went back into planning mode.

Our garden plot is 50′ x 40′, or about 2000 square feet. In our original plan, we actually underestimated the size at 50′ x 30′ (1500 sq ft). We had planned 14′ long beds with a 2′ walking path down the middle, as well as 18″ paths between the beds. Like so:

We haven’t finished our revisions to the garden plan, but we have pretty much decided that we’re not going to lay out all the beds in the second half of the garden this year. We extended the beds on the house side of the garden to about 18 1/2′, and plan to do at least two beds on the chicken coop side (for our corn). We still need to decide how we’ll handle our winter squash (pie pumpkins, butternut, and spaghetti squash), potatoes, and melons, which will all also be on the coop side. So, stay tuned!

And now, pictures of Saturday’s progress:
Kate, Ellie, and Barak on their way back for more mulch
Davey and Grace bringing over a wheelbarrow, while Jonathan lines up the next path
Josiah and Davey loading mulch
This poor pestered hen was again seeking shelter in the garden… this time, she jumped up behind me on my chair
The garden after Saturday’s work
The mulch pile after Saturday’s work
And a seedling update:
The two rows on the left are peppers, which hadn’t sprouted yet. The four on the right are tomatoes.

This year’s garden

I mentioned in a recent This and That post that we had most of our garden planning done and were looking forward to getting started. Well, we finally had the mulch for our beds delivered today! Jonathan and the Blessings put in a ton of work this afternoon/early evening and got quite a bit done.

Prior to today, we got all the old stuff (cardboard, rocks, stakes, etc) out of the garden; Jonathan mowed it all flat; and the boys and Jonathan teamed up to spread a layer of fertilizer (aka chicken manure) around the garden area.

Today, the first layer down was the paper. It’s just plain brown builders’ paper and will serve to help smother the weeds. Newsprint was another option, but between the fact that we don’t subscribe to a newspaper and that we would have needed to put down four layers of newsprint to one layer of builders’ paper… well, the builders’ paper won out.
And with all the wood it took just to hold the paper down, I’m glad we weren’t using newspaper!

Lee Reich’s Weedless Gardening suggests wetting down the paper before putting on the mulch for beds and paths, but since the forecast calls for rain again this weekend and the ground is quite wet already, we chose to forgo that step.

Because the ground is so wet and soft, we had the mulch dumped in the front yard instead of brought around to the garden area:
Davey, Barak, Elanor, and Josiah worked at loading wheelbarrows of mulch and bringing them around back. Katie helped some with that, as well as with bringing 2x4s out to the garden.

This hen enjoyed some peace and quiet (aka reprieve from the pesky rooster) inside the garden fence while we worked:

Jonathan used 2x4s to lay out the beds:
We just have the mulch for the beds so far, so the path areas will be empty until we get our wood chips (hopefully early next week). Once we have both the mulch and the woodchips in, we plan to take out the boards.

And here is our progress at the end of the day:

One last bit of gardening news: I finally got the tomatoes and peppers planted on Sunday. The tomato seedlings have definitely sprouted! It’s funny to me how they are all reaching for the flourescent kitchen light in this picture (and pardon the quality; the flash died in our camera).
The peppers are a bit slower, but we expect to see them sprouting any day now.

Whew, hope you’re not too tired of hearing about our garden. There’s much more to come over the next several months.

Mama and Baby

I realized while looking through my blog posts from my pregnancy with Stephen that I haven’t done a very thorough job of blogging about this pregnancy. Some of you might be relieved, some might be disappointed. But as we approach the “finish line,” I’m going to be trying to do better.

We’re a few days past 32 weeks right now, and Baby seems to be doing very well. Lots of motion, good heartbeat whenever it’s checked, etc.

My “belly taping” seems to be helping to keep my abodominal wall from separating any further. The downside is that it is varying degrees of irritating to my skin. I actually had blisters last week and had to take several days to let my skin heal. We re-taped last night, which means I got to do my pilates. Amazingly enough, I truly mean that “got to.” I feel so much better when I can do my exercise, perhaps because I know how helpful it is.

I had my first ever midnight prenatal last week when my midwife spent the night at our house and arrived late at night. We were all still awake enough for a prenatal, so we did it that night instead of early in the morning. It was unusual, but fun. I so appreciate my dear midwife, both as a midwife and as a friend, and I’m thankful we seem to be balancing our roles well.

For the sake of keepin’ it real, I’ll admit that this pregnancy continues to be my most challenging ever. I see the chiropractor every Friday, yet continue to have significant pain in key areas. My chiro is the best; I know my discomfort is much much less than it would be without her help, and I am very thankful that Jonathan places a priority on me getting in each Friday. I don’t want to go into a list of my challenges or be a whiner; I just want to be honest enough to say that it is far from easy, and I treasure your prayers.

On the up side, we’ve passed 32 weeks, and 5 out of our 7 Blessings running around the house right this minute were born within a couple days of 38 weeks. I realize this could be the one pregnancy that goes to 40 weeks or beyond, but I can’t help but count down to that shining beacon of 38 weeks.

As my belly promise-swells, my heart floods with thankfulness for this gift of life growing inside me. Unexpected, challenging, yet God-given and received with open and grateful hearts.

Speak, Lord in the Stillness

Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen
In expectancy.

Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

For the words Thou speakest,
‘They are life,’ indeed;
Living bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

Speak, Thy servant heareth!
Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee
For the quickening word!

All to Thee is yielded,
I am not my own;
Blissful, glad surrender,
I am Thine alone.

Fill me with the knowledge
Of Thy glorious will;
All Thine own good pleasure
In my life fulfill.

Emily May Grimes (1868-1927)

I read this this week for the first time. Many thanks to Shawna for posting the first four verses of it and getting me hunting for the author, during which search I found the last two verses. I found it referenced as a hymn in several places, but none of the sites referenced a hymn tune or had music. If anyone is familiar with this hymn or has a lead on its tune, I’d be glad to hear about it.


I review for BookSneeze

I’m going to be checking out the BookSneeze program. In short, they send you one book at a time (you choose), you review it and send them the link to the blog post, then you can pick another. Creative concept, and I’m looking forward to it.

Our developing laundry system

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve finally figured out a laundry system that we seem to be able to implement with some consistency. Here is more about that system and its evolution, in hopes that some part of it will be helpful or inspiring to you.

I should start by saying that the whole laundry thing has been a blight on my homemaking existence for years. I’ve often thought with a bit of (naive, I’m sure) jealousy back to the times when folks just had 2 or 3 outfits to wear and wash. Nine people worth of clothes and laundry just adds up! I never know whether to laugh or cry when one of my friends on Facebook mentions in their status that it’s “laundry day.” Every day but Sunday is laundry day here, or else Mt. Washmore raises its smelly head in our laundry room.

Several years ago, one of those miracle moms with 10 children and an immaculate house talked at our home school support group about home management. She had a lot of great ideas, some of which I have implemented with varying degrees of success. One idea we adopted was that of giving each child (that is old enough) a day on which it is their responsibility to do their laundry (and for the older ones, the laundry of an assigned sibling, who would be taught more responsibility as they grew). We bought stacking plastic laundry drawers per her suggestion as well.

Over the years, we’ve tweaked the system here and there. Last year we bought two three-bag laundry sorters, one for the girls’ room, one for the boys room. For some reason, this did not work for our Blessings. I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t.

Several months ago, we moved the laundry sorter to the laundry room and all the Blessings bring their dirty clothes and put them in the appropriate bag (we have two bags for darks, one for lights/whites). The children still have their day to do laundry, but the requirement has changed to doing two loads of laundry from start to clean and folded, choosing whichever bag(s) most need to be done.

This was a big improvement, but Mt. Washmore still had a tendency to rise, because we didn’t have a spot for the towels/sheets/blankets. This “other” category seemed to spread all over the floor AND inspire children to drop their dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the proper bag.

So, a couple months ago, we bought two large sturdy (and cheap!) laundry baskets, one white, one blue. The dark “other” laundry goes in the blue basket, the light in the white basket. These baskets are now included in the “what most needs to be washed” selection process. This seems to have been the piece of the puzzle that we’ve been missing!

I haven’t posted about the evolution of our laundry system for a while because for so long it just wasn’t working! But this incarnation has been in place long enough that I think I can say with some confidence that it’s working for us.

Here’s a picture of the laundry room yesterday morning, in a pretty typical state for a Saturday:

It’s not perfect, which is fine with me. There is no mountain, no stench, and no shame. A couple of notes:
~ The laundry sorter’s usual home is to the left of the washing machine, so that children can reach the washer. I moved it for a more compact picture. And so that you can’t see the mess on my sewing desk.
~ The tan basket on the dryer is the sock basket. It’s supposed to have only unmatched socks, but often a whole load worth of socks gets dumped there. It’s a process, right?
~ The white laundry basket on the dryer is a rest stop for clothes that no longer fit anyone, but that are nice enough to save. There is a larger tub on top of the big freezer that I can empty this into occasionally, and which I sort through at the seasonal clothes changeover. This is another recent addition which I like much better than the accumulating pile of too-small clothes in my bedroom!
~ I noticed when I looked at this picture that I need to remind the Blessings to throw the bag into the washer when they get to the bottom!
~ Jonathan and I have a blue basket and a white basket in our room. I throw our laundry in in the evening and/or on the weekend.
~ With baby will arrive daily diaper laundry. This will require more diligence at prompting the Blessings to start their laundry early in the day and finish it in time for me to put in diapers in the evening.

So tell me here or post on your blog and share a link. What laundry ideas work for you?

This and That … and lots of it!

I haven’t been very good with blogging regularly about what’s going on around here, so it’s time for a This and That post…

Last month, Jonathan and I waited for a couple of hours in my backup OB’s office, then saw him for less than 10 minutes. We only got as much of his time as we did because I kept asking him questions. I couldn’t help but think, “and this is one of many reasons why we choose midwifery care.” On the bright side, we are in “the system” and don’t need to go back again. I will update my charts with the office by fax, and if there is a need for transport (which we don’t plan on, of course, but for which we want to be prepared), I should slide into things at the hospital without a bunch of hullabaloo about “not having prenatal care.”

Speaking of prenatal care, a couple days after the aforementioned 2 hour wait/<10 minute appt, my midwife's assistant arrived at our home for a prenatal visit. We spent a lovely and mutually respectful hour+ together. We talked about what I'm eating, how I'm feeling, my diastatis, how the baby is lying, and a myriad of other things related to baby and me. We walked around the house and talked about plans for birth, advantages/disadvantages of our house layout, etc. We drank tea together as we chatted. When she left, I felt thoroughly "cared for." THAT is what I call prenatal care. And yes, there are numbers and notes on my chart … probably in more categories than the Dr's office will know what to do with when I fax it to them.

In other news…

Stephen is definitely going through a stage where he is wanting to exert his will, so he’s keeping us on our toes. At the same time, he continues to be such a delight! His imagination is going full-steam, and while he adores playing with his siblings, he also plays happily by himself, totally engrossed in a world of his own making. He particularly enjoys playing with the tub of horses.

The Blessings received five seasons of Daniel Boone on DVD for Christmas. We’ve been watching it at lunchtime a few times a week and finished Season 1 yesterday. I had never seen it before, so it’s been an adventure for all of us.

Last night, Elanor mentioned that she had lost something and had looked all over for it. Stephen pipes up helpfully, “Did you look under the green couch?” “Yes.” “Did you look under the gray couch?” “Yes, Stephen.” 🙂

I’ve been looking across the table/room/yard/etc lately and realizing that Davey, our eldest Blessing, who will turn 14 in June, is looking more like a young man and less like a “boy.” This does funny things to my heart, but mostly makes me realize how much I like this young man.

Have I mentioned that we’ve finally figured out a laundry system that we can actually make work for us? It’s nothing fancy, just a three-bag laundry sorter in the laundry room where all the Blessings’ dirty clothes are deposited (two for darks, one for lights/whites), a white basket for light towels/sheets/blankets and a blue basket for dark towels/sheets/blankets. The four older Blessings have the responsibility of doing two loads of laundry from start to finish on “their” laundry day, picking whatever basket or bag is most in need of being done. Kate and Grace help fold and put away, and I need to start working with Kate on Fridays, working towards her having a laundry day as well. For some reason, this system seems to be one that we can make work, and the laundry room floor is no longer covered with dirty laundry 98% of the time.

Our guinea hens have started laying eggs! They actually lay them in the coop, which is wonderful for us. Hopefully as the weather warms they will continue to lay in the coop and not take to the fields as guineas are prone to do.

I finally finished getting our winter/Christmas decorations packed up and ready to go to the attic. They’ll go up and perhaps the baby tubs will come down…

The taping seems to be working well for keeping my abdominal separation from worsening. I finally started doing pilates again a couple night ago, and am thankful to be back to it. At the same time, I have to admit… it’s kickin’ my tail! But that’s a good thing.

We have our garden mostly planned out for this year and are eagerly awaiting the warming of the soil so that we can get started! We’re going to be using principles from the book Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich. No tilling, established beds/paths, and lots of mulch, for which we’ve found a good and cheap source. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it.

Speaking of the soil warming, I feel like I am blossoming as Spring moves in. I’ve enjoyed several days this week of sitting in the sunshine reading or working on a project. The warmer weather and the smell of spring is such a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness! Last night, I fell asleep to the rumble of thunder, the patter of rain on the roof, the occasional distant flash of lightening… and woke to the sound of birds chirping while the sunshine streamed in my window. Spring Bliss!

See Yesterday, my photo blog, for some recent pictures. I’ll be updating it later today.

God’s Love for Me

I was touched today by this story from the Compassion International bloggers trip to Kenya.

No, that’s not it. I was broken. Ugly cry kind of broken.

That this young man can demonstrate such faith in God’s love for Him in the midst of one of the nastiest slums in the world… it simply brought me to sobs of repentence for my doubting heart. We all have “slumy” areas of our lives and hearts, don’t we? And isn’t it easy to begin to doubt His love? Yet HE never falters!

Enough to Feed me,
Bless me, and
Give me hope for the future.
~Eliud’s daily prayer

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Ps. 103.8

My heart is full of thankfulness tonight for my Heavenly Father’s love. May I keep His love at the forefront of my mind and heart.

New Blog Look

I forgot to post the other day when I switched to a new (not quite spring, but no more snow, please) look for my blog. If new blog templates make your skirt fly up, you might want to check it out. Background and frame courtesy of The Background Fairy.