Friday, July 17, 2015

Sweet Summer Days

blueberry barrens #207gram #maine

Pride. #howtobepopularinruralmaine

Some of us swam, some of us are rereading Octavia Butler favorites.

Soon I'll be wading in and collecting timber, too.

Adventures in Chainsawing - palm-sized spiders and a mouse family who has literally found themselves waterlogged. I'm not afraid of mice but dislike the thought of drowning mice scrambling up my legs. Don't worry, we're doing our best to rescue all creatu

My family really, really could use some good news tomorrow and this week. This past year has been a struggle. Accepting all hugs, love, prayers, and good thoughts aimed our way. Thank you.

Olivia and Alex.

yesterday evening


yesterday evening

yesterday evening

Olivia looked forward to this all day, she told us.

good eats

Sunday morning breakfast.

Adam earned his driver's permit! Happy news!

Our newest driver (permit)!

little pleasing things

She is settling for me but would much prefer her person, Olivia, who is out. Ginger, we have to talk about the end of August and this place called college... #catsofinstagram

cat + their favorite somebody #catsofinstagram

It seems like we have been swept up in summer days as soon as Olivia and Alex returned from Machias. Olivia found time to stay with friends in Castine while juggling her intern work. Adam spent three mornings a week in Belfast for driver's ed for four weeks. And we got creative managing all of their driving with our one family van. We celebrated the happy news about equal marriage by tacking a rainbow flag to our front door just in time for Independence Day. We've been spending as much time as possible at the camp point and in the water, eating many a meal-lunch, supper, Sunday brunch, at our favorite spot. When they weren't diving into work or the pond, the kids dove into favorite books. Alex spent a morning sawing up the pine tree that had come down during the winter that covered the long rock at the camp. We were both knee deep in water when we realized a nest of mice inhabited the tree as he spotted two swimming for shore and I saw two more scrambling up a floating log. Poor dears. We did our best to not yelp too much and got them to shore with some of their nest. Then it was just the enormous palm-sized spiders we had to look out for. This week, on Monday, Adam earned his driver's permit, so now we have four drivers in our family and that one reliable van. Hmm. So cool, Adam! We're still out in the gardens, of course, and enjoying quiet summer days around the house, too. Some deer visit us each day, usually in the evening, and one mother brought her fawn to see us, last night. The thirty tomato plants we were gifted from Blackbird Rise are huge and thriving and setting on fruit. We have garlic to harvest, and other garden goodies will be coming soon. The nasturtiums and cosmos are blooming. Olivia and I have been out shopping for the first wave of dorm supplies. We all are aware that we'll miss having Olivia around when she's away at school, but at least we will also be excited for her. Ginger kitty, however, will not know. If there's one thing that Olivia is not looking forward to about leaving, it's leaving her pets behind. If only Ginger could understand. Hopefully she'll allow us to love on her a bit more once September arrives. Until then, it's all about swimming, reading, eating grilled and fresh food, sunshine, snuggling and being together on these summer days.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A New Adventure For A Life-Long Unschooler

seal release

As life-long unschoolers, neither of our children have ever attended school. Sure, they elected to take some courses offered in the community from time to time, but they have never been enrolled in school. The rare times we tried to wedge some sort of classroom in the home into our lives failed miserably, I'm happy to say. There were times, too, when it was appropriate to have conversations about school as an option for our children, and each time our kids decided it still wasn't the best choice for them and we've supported them in their decisions. As they've grown and entered their teen years, we have had similar and numerous conversations about college-should they attend, how could they attend as unschoolers, is it worth going into debt (and maybe never getting out of debt for college), are there ways to make it affordable, what would they study, what would they do instead of college?-all good questions and not too dissimilar to the questions all young people grapple with when planning for their future as young adults. As parents, neither Alex or I expect or urge college, nor do we believe that college is the only path to successful adulthood, especially since we already consider our teens to be successful people. We are also cognizant of the immense societal pressures young people face and know that whether we agree with it or not, having a college degree can bestow certain privileges, be it social or economic.

And so we've had endless discussions about college. And we've felt validated all the many occasions either of our teens has been complimented on their competency, skill, demeanor, and knowledge. That Olivia has been mistaken for a several-years-in academic too many times to count, tells us that knowledge and insight are free and available from many sources. We understand that intelligence and accomplishment is not doled out beyond wrought iron gates and brick walls for a price. We've also had many discussions about creating a life without college, or traveling instead of college, or combining some of both and what those options might look like.

In April 2014, Olivia hopped on a bus that would take her to an event held on a small campus in down east Maine. There, she found a lot to like-the small, close-knit community, activism, environmental commitment, and the stunning location. Over the next months, she found herself thinking about this place. By fall, she was weighing the pros and cons of maybe attending and finally, in December, because this college also matched her "heart values", as she calls them, she made the decision to apply. In January, while she crafted her essay and and asked for three letters of recommendation (which she received, with such joy and care), I spent a week writing up a curriculum vitae for her that covered the last four years, and it ended up being quite a nice academic and community resume for her. With her application submitted, she did what all prospective college kids do, and waited.

In March, she got a call from the school and when she came downstairs to tell me, I burst into happy tears. And then came the mail.

So my always-unschooled kid made this happen. Her announcement is in her photos @oliviaelemental. Congratulations, Olivia! So proud of you! #unschooling #teen #selfdirected

What's more, she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship and she was returning to UMM in mid-April for the same annual event, but this time as a prospective student. We're so proud of her! Olivia gave careful consideration to her needs and desires, her passions, her core values and made the best decision for her, and she made it all happen! She absolutely has our love and support and we trust that she will soak up every opportunity UMM offers her, and we know, too, that UMM is gaining a passionate, dedicated student.

In May, Olivia officially completed eighteen years of unschooling and we celebrated with a graduation party with friends and family at the camp point. I wrote then that "some folks think it's pointless to "graduate" an unschooler since they are not in school and learning doesn't just end. To that I say that it is worth celebrating someone adhering to their path, to mark the transition from this life at home to new adventures, to congratulate them for trusting in themselves enough to know that school was not the place for them against all societal, cultural, and familial pressure. As for learning, of course it doesn't end, what a silly thing!"

Olivia graduates!




good people

lady's slippers


out in the canoe

getting to know you




We lucked out with such a gorgeous day spent with family and friends. The camp point was covered in the delicate pink lady slipper blooms. We all had our first swim, we took the canoe out, we laughed and told stories, played cards and roasted marshmallows. It was such a perfect way to honor Olivia's past and future journey.

Alex and Olivia are off to orientation for UofME at Machias! Twenty-one years ago we could only have guessed and hoped we'd be doing something like this on our anniversary. I only wish we could all have gone (this is one aspect of farm life I'm not great

At the end of June, Olivia and Alex drove the three hours to Machias to spend the weekend at student orientation. There, Olivia became further acquainted with the small campus, the staff, other students and some of her future professors. She explored the art department where she will spend most of her time as an Interdisciplinary Fine Arts major. She also found time to track down the campus radio station and some of its student staff to chat them up about possible programing and she's looking forward to the possibility of having one or two shows in the fall. Olivia and Alex spent some time exploring the area before returning home and visited Lubec and West Quoddy Head Light, the easternmost point in the United States, as well.  I think they had a good time together and I'm grateful for that.

As for this summer, Olivia works 25 hours a week as a paid intern doing outreach and education. She's definitely learned the art of networking and keeping contacts with people who are engaged in community and social change and she seems to have a real knack for this type of organizational work. She must, because in addition to her paid work, she serves on two other boards plus is part of a planning committee. Whew! It will be interesting to see where this road might lead her.

We're extremely proud of Olivia. She showed such commitment to her goals and though it might not look like the path so many other young people have taken, she's laid out her own course and has followed it. This is an exciting time for her and we're happy for her and we will continue to support her on this next part of her journey. Unschoolers can and do choose college and they can absolutely make it there their own way. College doesn't have to be a destination, but for some it may be a good fit. I have no doubt Olivia will shape her time at UMM into something meaningful and wonderful.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The New Chicken Run

Now that we're no longer dealing with snow, we've begun work on the exterior of the old chicken coop. The interior got a major overhaul (minus a few details we still need to address) last late fall, which served the chickens well through the long winter. Now we are onto removing all of the exterior OSB siding (and ants, which the chickens eat happily), adding house wrap and all new 30-year exterior plywood siding, painting it and then building a large 12-feet by 24-feet run wrapped entirely in hardware cloth. This will provide the chickens with a run three times the size of their current hoop house run. I've been painting the coop and the run structure in Valspar's 'English Tea Party 6004-2C' and we all absolutely love the way this color looks both sophisticated and gorgeous against all the green. I'm sure it will be just as gorgeous against winter snow.


The chicken coop is getting all new 30-year siding and a fresh paint job, plus a huge new run.

Unfahtunatly, deah, this bug bafflah only wehks for my head. Dontch'ey just drive you some wicked! #207gram #maine #ayuh

Also worth noting-yes, we want our chickens and ducks to have as much fresh air, sunshine, bugs, space, and green as possible, but we are not okay with free-range birds. First, there's the busy road and lack of perimeter fencing, and second, we have bald eagles, hawks, owls, raccoons, fox, probably coyote, and any number or poultry predators also roaming our land looking for a tasty meal. We've invested a lot of time and money raising our birds and do our upmost to provide them a good life in exchange for eggs, and we're not about to let them become disposable animals. We feel it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure they get to have long, healthy lives.

Building the chicken run begins!


The new chicken run is finished!

Our fourteen hens are slowly exploring their new run on this rainy day.

All kinds of things to explore in the new chicken run.

What do you think, Edna? #speckledsussex

Maude seems to approve of the new run. #jerseygiant

On the west side of the run stood an old smoke house that Alex tore down (also infested with ants). All of us have been out there in long sleeves and bug baffler hoods because the black flies are also out and they are vicious. I paint, Alex constructs, Olivia and Adam help applying all the welded wire cloth, and the chickens cluck at us constantly. They are so curious about what we are doing (and they want to know when their next batch of rotten wood and ants will be arriving.) Also, many of them are broody, despite being rooster-less, and they are cranky. Very. Cranky. We're hoping this new run will be a distraction and much needed change of pace for them.

Let's the top left we have Avis and Cleona determined to share a nest, Doris in the top middle, and Blanche (furious that we're talking about her), sitting on nothing and not planning to lay an egg, in the bottom left. Dotty the tiny Dominique qu

Avis has been so broody and cranky, poor dear.
Avis, a Dominique

Pretty broody Silver Dorking. I still can't tell our three apart.
Doris, a Silver Gray Dorking

I think this is Blanche. Also broody.
Blanche, a Jersey Giant

Oh, and in other news, one of our sweet Buff Orpingtons, who has been a house chicken since early February due to a touch of frostbite that led to the others picking on her, has successfully transitioned back to the flock. Welcome back, Ethel!

Good morning, Ethel, our convalescing house hen. Thanks for the wake up call! (She's training us for summer-our bedroom window looks out over the chicken coop.)
Ethel becomes a house chicken

Alex and Ethel The House Hen, of course.
playtime with Alex

So far so good. Ethel the House Chicken seems to be reintegrated with the rest of the flock. She and this Dorking (Bernice? Doris? Cleona?) seem pretty blissed out in each other's company.
settling in

Hugging Ethel.
hugs for Ethel


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