Category Archives: Parenting

Yes, this is my first Rodeo

I have of course heard of rodeo. Our farrier (the person who trims our horse’s hooves) is a true cowboy. When we went to Yellowstone this summer we drove through Cody, Wyoming. Since our destination was Cody and we had a limited amount of time we didn’t stop for too long in Cody. But I did notice that they have a rodeo, every single night during the summer.

We also stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming en route. We stayed in a hotel and were watching the local news while winding down and waiting for our turn in the bath room. We found out that in Sheridan (and assuming other places) rodeo is a high school sport rivaling football. The results of the competitions are reported on the evening news.

When we moved up here we heard about Heidelberger’s auction  barn. They also boast a rodeo every year but up until this year we have never gone. Through a strange coincidence, my father became friends with the brother of Mr. Heidelberger. Dad was talking about his friend but never using last name until my mom said something like, “Neil’s brother has an auction place up by you.” Heidelberger’s was the only one I knew of and we put two and two together.

So this year we went as a family as guests of Neil and his family. So yes this really was our first rodeo.

The announcer set the stage well, “the great American sport known as rodeo–the world’s most dangerous playing field.” Luckily no one got seriously hurt last night but you could totally see that having a 2,000 pound bull as an opponent would be seriously dangerous.

Avril tried out the mechanical bull–a much safer option for this mother!

Bareback riding, I never knew that there were 2 other cowboys on horses ready to assist and catch the wild horses after their rider was thrown or to help the rider safely off in case he was able to stay on. It was amazing to see them work the horses! Some “amazing horsemanship and teamwork” as announcer Davie Kimm said.

Calf scramble. The 4-6 year olds joined 4 calves in the arena. Each calf had a ribbon tied to their tale and the children try to catch the ribbon.

Wild cow milking contest. No description can do it justice.

So yes it was a great night at the rodeo, and quite possible the start of a new tradition.


Reading in the New Year

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I have started doing New Year’s Resolutions. As I look at the new year and think about my hopes and dreams for the coming 365 days it has become a fun tradition and exercise in dreaming. I firmly believe adults still need to have dreams and goals they are striving for. And for this year my main goal is to enjoy life more–to not be so caught up in daily struggles that I forget about the big picture. When I was writing the author page in my book Home School Farm I was able to summarize what my favorite things are–writing and reading, cooking and eating and creating and loving. So this is where my focus will be for the New Year.

So I start today with reading. I thought I would share with you some of the things that are really filling my soul lately.

As a busy momma magazines are often more my speed. I have long been a subscriber of Taproot. I believe I have every copy, though I have not always been good at reading it, my last 2 issues I have completely devoured. So I am saving my others for a little postpartum reading. I love the authenticity of the magazine and the focus on simplicity.

Making was a dream come true for me. The handmade section of Taproot has always been my favorite as I dream about beautiful things I would like to make. Now there is a whole magazine just for creating all those projects that really speak to me. It is a new magazine. My copy, Fauna, is the 2nd issue, unfortunately I missed the first one, but I definitely plan on subscribing. I love just flipping through the magazine and planning future projects. I also love the ability to learn new skills and types of projects. I bought the tools for my first felting project yesterday!!

I picked up In Winter’s Kitchen at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Of course I am a fan of local food. I did expect this book to be a bit different though, I thought it would be a personal narrative and while there are elements of that I love that it goes into the history of various crops that are northland staples like wheat and carrots. I am learning much about plant history and getting inspired to try some new varieties. What is really cool is that since the book takes place in my home state I actually know some of the people Dooley talks about in the book. Also when she mentions a restaurant or company that she likes I can check them out myself.

Case in point she talks about Sunrise Flour Mill. They are a small mill that grinds heritage wheat and they are just 15 miles from my home! So yesterday I stopped by to get some flour and asked the proprietor Martin to make some recommendations for me. He did. Currently I am making Perfect Artisan Bread. It is a 2 day process I will continue tomorrow. I am super excited about it. Apparently the flour is good for people with high blood sugar, gluten sensitivities and celiac’s disease. I just hope it is delicious.

The last book I am reading has a lot to do with another activity–loving. In loving my children I hope to provide them with a peaceful and secure home environment. Peaceful is a little difficult to attain with 6 little (and not so little ones) running around. We homeschool and I was feeling like so so so much of my energy was going into the older children’s more complex struggles that we were loosing something in creative, fun energy. I stumbled upon Whole Family Rhythms and got a copy of their Winter Guide (it is only in ebook). The book provides a weekly story, and play activity as well as daily focus activities from a nature walk to cooking, to water coloring or crafting. It also provides momma meditations and momma crafts. I am trying to be more go with the flow and not stress if we doing get to everything every day but it is fun to have a little different focus.

What are you reading in the New Year?

Science Class

Oh we do have a bustling household. With 6 children it seems like there is always plenty to do. Now the older ones are starting to develop their own interests and school in becoming more involved. Sometimes at the beginning of the week I look over my schedule and think how things have changed from the days of 2 or 3 little ones content to be home all day. Those days it was mommy who felt the need to be out and about.

Our last birth was this January. I was so thankful that the cold and snow encouraged everyone to a more laid back pace and for many weeks it was nice just to be home. But now it is time to get back to our regular schedule. Including stepping up on school, homeschool coop and science class. We are blessed with a church that is very supportive of homeschool and that offer some supplemental classes.

This year the children have really been enjoying a science offered by local naturalist and author, Julie Von Vett. We took some time off over the new year but now we are back. Recently the children were able to dissect sea stars (star fish for all you ancients like me).

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Sure sign of spring–bird nests

It is always interesting how nature intersects with our human constructions. I remember seeing pigeon nests as a child tucked away in I beams in the skyway in downtown St. Paul. More recently hawk’s nests on electrical poles along the highway. But this year we have our own story.


The children have been anxiously waiting for the snow to melt, then there were the cars and tractors in the way, finally this weekend the hoop was clear but we noticed something interesting.


We had noticed a bird flying back and forth. I knew what it was but honestly had never seen a nest before. We are trying very hard to hold back our curiosity and not disturb them too much but we had to take just a quick peek. The children we completely amazed and I was too. I have never seen a bird nest up close and personal and in use. So we have all agreed that there will be no basketball until those little babies move all and we are anxiously watching (from a distance most of the time) the progress they make. So many lessons,

How do birds make nests? We recognize much of the building material.

How long for baby birds to hatch and Mature? Still working on that

Also learning how to observe but not disturb and how to be considerate of even the smallest creatures. On a side note with all this rain we are learning a lot about worm saving. Yes bird saving and worm saving don’t really go together but that can be a lesson for another day.

Welcome 2014

When we were preparing for our big move to our dream farm it was hard not to be frustrated by delays. Winter was coming and I was anxious to get settled. But delay after delay happened. Finally on New Year’s Eve three years ago we were ready to move. So on the first morning of our new year we woke-up to our dream come true. Now I know what a blessing all those delays were. Now the New Year will forever equal a New Life. I enjoy celebrating my holidays with quiet contemplation–reflection on what this day means to me. Last night I was lying in bed thinking how amazing our life is.

Today it is hard to see out the windows, they are so frosted over. The outside temperatures are not expected to climb out of the negative numbers for a couple days now. But we are celebrating our New Year with a special kind of ordinary–good food, cuddling, movies, games, crafting, reading, togetherness, all while living our dream. It’s a great life.

Last year at this time we set out to get healthy. Seemed like everything had been thrown out of whack a bit but the crazy upheavals no matter how good. Now in addition to looking forward I can look back to the good things this life has given, especially good health. Looking forward to another great year of continued growth. I hope all of you have a special dream or project to drive you forward to the good life.

Handmade Christmas

I finally did. I have been wanting to have a handmade Christmas for a long time, but didn’t think it would really work for the children. The adults in my family have enjoyed it for several years now with each of us trying to come up with something special to make for the others. For example this year I made salted caramel sauce and truffles for my sister and she made us homemade root beer and birch beer. I should say that I am so blessed that I come from a family where handmade is normal. My grandfather loved working with wood and my grandmother started a line of women who sew, knit, crochet, embroider, can, cook from scratch and bake and really anything else they decide to try.

So I was getting a little fed up with the story of Santa Claus. My children were becoming completely focused on what they were getting and as you can imagine the requests were getting more elaborate including this year a pony and an Xbox. I had been telling the children “don’t ask Santa for that because I will tell him no you can’t have it.” Finally we watched a VeggieTales about Saint Nicholas together and I explained the truth. I also told they children I wanted them to focus on giving rather then getting so I looked for projects we could work on together for the children. I found so many options out there that with the exception of legos (one toy I don’t mind splurging on) and a video game we could play together the majority of our Christmas presents were handmade. And the children loved it. They were even excited to see their siblings open their gifts. That is what I want to see. Here are some of our favorites from this year.

I saw these blocks on pinterest and thought they were so cute. I followed the instructions and had them printed on sticker paper about our local print shop. I think these were definitely a favorite for Mavis and Avril to make. I also made the carrying bag.

I saw this dinosaur tail pattern and thought of my little paleontologist. She loves rocks and dinosaurs and her favorite toy is her “Mommy t-rexy.” Obviously it was a hit.

I saw instructions for making magnetic paper dolls and put my own spin on them. I used these dolls but they were not colored so I had lots of fun coloring them with my husband’s art set. I did have difficulty finding the right size tin so I ended up order a tin CD case from etsy. I then had to print the dolls a bit smaller to fit the tin. I think I printed at 65%. I used mode modge to attach a colorful backing paper and then glued the doll parts directly to the tin. I used a roll of magnet I got at Michaels for the clothes. The magnetic canvas had a sticky side so  I put the clothes on the sticky side and cut them out. Now I need to make another set so they can play together.

For my littlest man I finally made the “quick change trousers” from Handmade Beginnings. So much fun I made 2.

Other projects were cutting down Cambodian sarongs to fit the girls and a pair of pants for Two.

We also wanted gifts to spark creativity. So Avril got a face painting set and book. She painted Mavis’ face then Proeun did the rest of them. What a fun evening.

For extended family we asked for clothes, books or games. My sister is the queen of games so she helped extend our family game night by giving the kids some of her favorites. So all in all it went pretty well. We still were able to give fun gifts, we didn’t fill our house with things that will break easily and the children were actually excited about their gifts and what was even better for me, they were excited to give each other gifts. Yes we had a very blessed Christmas.

New Year: 4th of July R and R

I hope all of you had a great 4th. As part of our goals to live a healthier life I am realizing how important it is to take time to rest, relax and celebrate. So even though our CSA deliveries have just started the work began pretty heavily back in March so we are actually about mid-way through our heavy work season. So for the 4th we decided it was time to celebrate.

We had family and friends over for a 4th of July cookout, then on the 5th we headed up North to some of our favorite spots. I have always loved Duluth and the North Shore and last year I was so focused on work we didn’t take time to go. But this year we made it a priority.

A smoked fish and cheese curd picnic at our favorite beach just a little north of Two Harbors. Yes there are some extra children in the picture family and friends came with us.

Gooseberry Falls, another family favorite.

The first time we went to the falls we came in our normal street clothes and just expected a nice hike. Little did we know that Gooseberry is one of the few places I know to get up close and personal with a waterfall. All these people were swimming and splashing in the water and we felt pretty out of place. Since then we have come planning on joining them. Yes this hike involves swimsuits and towels now.

Two on Nature’s water slide.

Avril with some of our family and friends enjoying the spray.

And how did Pray like his first trip to Gooseberry. As you can see it was just like home.

creating art

Imagine a world without great music, or art, one in which Mozart’s genius was stifled by the neccessary duty of going to school or Michaelangelo’s art was censored by the common ideas of the time. Imagine a world where everyone ate the same things, where they all dressed the same and talked the same. A world in which you could never excel past your “peers” or radical ideas were stifled.

This is not a political blog, this is a blog about farming, living close to the earth and family, creating a life worth living. But I am troubled. In school I honestly idealized the social contructs of Scandinavian nations. They seemed to have it all together. But now after having children of my own and thinking more about the life I want to live I realize there are very real and harsh consequences of those of us who choose to live outside societal norms both there and here. One is that of constant criticism. Whether you want to make your own healthcare decisions or at least demand that your doctors inform you of all your options, or you choose to raise your children at home and educate them there, whether you want to make decisions about the foods your eat based on your personal convictions and many of the decisions we must make on a daily basis that don’t jive with common culture all bear much criticism. Sometimes it is hard to focus on the fact that I am crafting a life, I am creating art. Art that some would wish to censor.

There has been much chatter about the quote by MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, stating, “break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents” and recognize that “kids belong to whole communities.” Her comments were met with outlash by the right and some people who would do well to just stay quiet for once. I must admit I was a little nervous. I make regular decisions that are not supported by my larger community. Later she said, “I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together. So those of you who were alarmed by the ad can relax. I have no designs on taking your children…”

I am glad she restated and now we can understand each other better. We must all be careful what we say,

Little ears are listening. And what I hope they are hearing is that their mom believes in raising them in the beauty of the home, the shelter of my arms and that I will fight for that right. I am constantly aware of the fact that art is dangerous, none more so then the lives we lead, the decisions we make.

A Sick Kitty

It was quite the weekend–a teaching weekend to say the least. On Saturday morning our chicks arrived. Though I have done it couple times already it still makes me nervous handling those little chicks and dipping their little beaks in water and releasing them into the brooder. Exciting but scary.

Then we had a sick kitty to take to our vet. Remember here when I talked about getting two kittens for the children right after Mavis was born around 4 years ago. Those kittens became babies and were carried around the house just like them and became part of the family and the children’s best friend. Well one of them had been loosing weight and vitality. I hadn’t really noticed the gradual change since I see him every day. Then it got to the point that it was too noticeable to miss. And we were off the vet with a sick kitty right after being up early with chicks. I thought maybe he just had worms, but after some tests the vet thought he might have feline leukemia or liver problems, but we would have to wait an half hour to find out. So we did our weekly shopping and it was seriously the worst shopping trip of my life. The children kept asking about Austin and I am the type that imagines the worst so I am thinking we might have a dead kitty by the end of the day.

Of course when you have children it is not only your own grief you have to deal with but model healthy grief to teach your children how to deal with the sad things in life they will inevitably have to encounter. I was praying like crazy for the strength to deal with not only my own grief but the childrens.

After the tests came back it was the liver but not a chronic problem. So we are trying to flush him out with fluid and getting him eating and drinking and some energy. This means hourly feedings and some fluid injections. It was quite the weekend, but better then I expected. At one point Avril said to me, “Are you doing all these things for Austin because he is my cat and you know I love him?” Yes baby yes I am.

But also I want to model the care and service that will give you a fulfilling life. Nothing like saving a life over the weekend–even a cat’s life to make you realize that a life of service is not a drudgery but very rewarding. I hope that I can teach to children that taking care of the gifts God has given us is definitely the best use of our time. Austin is not out of the woods yet, but he is successfully eating and drinking through a syringe and I am hopefully that with continued assistance he will soon be his old perky self.

Family Circles

The weather around here is getting a bit warmer. While I of course am looking forward to the coming season I feel a bit sad to leave behind the short days of winter spent close to home and surrounded by family. Nothing like the winter to allow you to slow down and contemplate life a bit. As I said here this year I working on centering and bringing the important things of life into focus.

Part of that is a focus on homeschool. The children are getting older and their work is getting progressively more indepth. Then next year I will add a 3rd child to our homeschooling circle not to mention an infant and pre-schooler. So it is time to get organized and focused. One resource I find invaluable is Family Circles from Doorposts. Doorposts is a Christian resource for families. Family Circles however can be used by everyone. It is a great tool for focusing your attention on spending individualized time with each of your family members.

I started using this and discovered that I really don’t talk to my children. . . I mean really talk like know what they are thinking and dreaming about and taking the time to explore the feelings behind behaviors. Since starting using this and other resources from Doorposts I am happy to say the atmosphere is getting wonderful in our house. It is multi-fold, relationships and intellects growing and children glowing.

So I am hanging on to winter a bit longer, I think it will probably end up being my favorite time of the year. So I encourage you before the warmer weather, and busy traveling and growing season make sure you take some quiet time to sit and talk with your kids–read a great book, play some board games, make a special dinner together, and most importantly talk. And once you develop the habit keep on keeping on.