In Hindsight

We all look back and wish we would have made different choices at some point in our lives.  It doesn’t mean the choices we made are bad (although I’ve made some of those), but it’s the realization that different choices may have been better.

For example, in high school, I chose not to take a foreign language class.  I went to a high school, out in the middle of corn field (literally) and really didn’t envision myself ever needing to speak Spanish or German, which were the only two languages offered.

Fast forward all these years and I realize how knowing a second language would have provided more opportunity.  I also realize that being able to speak Spanish would have come in helpful many times.  Especially since we adopted our oldest daughter from a Spanish speaking country.

So hubby and I are trying to learn now.  Which also makes me realize how much easier it would have been to learn another language in my teens.  Seriously, how many times do I have to hear the same word over and over before I remember it?!!!  Certainly I should be much further along in a week 🙂  LOL!!!

Then there is travel.

Image result for travel

I wish I would have done more travel in my life.  Instead, I made other choices, like having babies.  I’m able to do more travel now, but I feel like I’m playing catch up and don’t really see a way to visit all the places I would like in my lifetime.  But really, can anyone truly see everything?!!! Plus, I wouldn’t trade my children in for travel.  However, in hindsight, I wish I would have saved more money so I could travel more now.

I also think I would have enjoyed living outside the U.S. for a little while.

Image result for expat

I wasn’t raised by dreamers.  I was raised by parents who were much more content to stay in one place.  Honestly, I can’t say I understood that really.  I had a pen pal from Belgium which gave me a little taste of what life might be like outside the U.S.  I was not afraid of moving away from the little town that had been the only home I knew.  Although my first move away was to another small town in the same state.  Still, I found moving away exciting.  It was a new adventure.  It was the opportunity to experience a different life.  I was also able to experience life living in California and Washington.  Not quite the same as living abroad.

Hubby was in the Army and was able to experience living abroad for two years.  I don’t know if he would agree or not, but I believe that experience changed him in positive ways.  I think there is something to be said about moving away from the comfort of your home and being able to experience a life unlike the only one you’ve ever known.  It changes a person and gives a new perspective on life.

Image result for new perspective

My list of things I could have or should have done differently could go on and on and on I suppose, but I don’t want to live a life of regret.  Instead, I want to take what I’ve learned, move forward and experience new adventures.

Image result for experience the adventure

 

 

 

 

Oh For the Love of Seedlings

We are quickly approaching garden season here.  Although looking at the lingering snow on the ground, feeling the sting of the cold winds and watching the sky as more snow begins to make its way here, one would find it difficult to believe that any gardening will be happening soon.   Yet,  it’s almost time for me to get my seedlings started.

Last year was my first attempt at starting my own seedlings.  When I gardened so many years ago, I would go to the nursery to purchase my plants and seeds.  So when hubby and I decided to re-establish our garden last year, we really wanted to try our hand at gardening from beginning to end.  So we got our seeds, carefully planted them in little containers of light, airy soil.  I placed all the containers under fluorescent lighting, gave them regular drinks of water and waited.

Eventually, little green sprouts began to emerge from the soil.  Excitement and a sense of accomplishment washed over me.  Then one-by-one, my seedlings began to die 😦  Only one tomato plant survived and went on to provide us lots of wonderful tasty fruit.

Once again, we were at the nursery picking up vegetable plants for our garden.  My first attempt at gardening from beginning to end didn’t work out the way I had hoped.

Some may have considered this a failure, but  gardeners are in constant learning mode and this was indeed a learning experience.   Now I prepare to enter the 2014 gardening season with more knowledge and a chance to try again.  That isn’t failure at all.

I could only surmise my seedlings didn’t survive because of their environment.  Hubby built me a nice seedling shelf with fluorescent lighting, but couldn’t have been the problem.  We put the shelf in the basement where it was safe from kids and dogs, so that couldn’t have been the problem.  However, the temperature in the basement was not conducive to the survival of the seedlings.  They need warmth and even though I put plastic covers over the top of them, they just didn’t have the warmth they needed.  Lack of adequate heat!!!  Problem solved!!!

This year, I want to give my seedlings every chance for survival.  So a couple of days ago I spent the majority of my morning shopping.  Warming mats and seeds were on the list and after careful consideration I had made my purchases –  tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, spinach, peas, kale, beets, broccoli, beans, watermelon, an assortment of herbs, marigolds and warming mats.

In a few weeks many of these seeds will be planted and placed in their temporary home in the basement.  They will have warm light from the top, warming mats on the bottom and regular watering.  I will approach it all with lots of hope that some days later I’ll see little green sprouts emerge thru the soil with continuing hope that they will grow tall and strong for spring planting.

My second attempt at starting my own seedlings and my first attempt at growing many of these vegetables and herbs.  A year of learning experiences behind me and a year of learning experiences ahead.    Soon, I’ll have everything I need for the 2014 World of Weeks Garden!

The 2014 Garden

Last year we got our vegetable garden up and running again.  For a number of reasons, it had been dormant for several years and with each passing year I missed it more and more.  Okay, I didn’t miss the weeding so much, but I certainly missed the ability to walk out my back door to retrieve ingredients for a summer night dinner.  I missed pulling a jar from the basement shelf and knowing the contents of that jar came from my garden.  The feeling is so very satisfying.

We have had sub-zero temperatures with about 10 inches of snow on the ground and it’s snowing again this morning.  I believe that is my clue to begin my 2014 garden plan. What will I grow this year?  How will I lay out the garden?  Should we expand the garden or not?  What did I learn from last year’s garden?

Honestly, I’ve had some really good success with my garden, but I can’t say that success has come from vast knowledge.  Truth be told, the majority of my success has been a result of some good old Illinois soil.  But we don’t plan to stay in Illinois and I can’t take this soil with me (although I would if I could).  So, I have been spending more time educating myself and trying to learn from past mistakes.

So what exactly did I learn from last year’s garden?

I won’t be planting grape tomatoes this year.  We just didn’t eat them and I had problems with blossom end rot.  I added calcium to the soil in the form of egg shells and powdered milk, but I don’t believe I put enough calcium at that end of the garden.  We also had some heavy rains and then it got hot and dry.  Not sure I gave those tomatoes enough water during the drought.  So some good lessons learned for the 2014 tomatoes.

The other aha moment about tomatoes came to me recently when I realized just how many jars of my tomato sauce I have been using this winter.  In place of the grape tomatoes, I think I’ll add a couple more Big Mama tomato plants.  It was the first time I have grown them and I was very impressed – big, meaty and wonderful for making my own tomato sauce.

Growing other meaty tomato varieties is also on the garden list for 2014. Ultimately, you don’t know what you are going to like best until you’ve tried them all and I’m still in search of the perfect salsa recipe and would like to try making my own ketchup this fall.  Good sauce tomatoes are a must.

Zucchini!!!  OMG!!!! We had enough zucchini to stock the Wal-Mart produce shelves for months.  Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit.  It’s likely we could have only stocked the shelves for a few weeks, but for our family of 4, it was a lot of zucchini.  Bags and bags and bags of shredded zucchini still fill my freezer.  Despite fighting the squash bugs, I had an awesome crop which allowed me to make several jars of  bread-n-butter zucchini pickles before stocking the freezer.  Zucchini takes up a lot of garden space and quite honestly, I want that space for some other crops this year.  Unless I suddenly start using up all the pickles and shredded zucchini, I think we’ll skip it this year.

The pickling cucumbers I tried to grow just didn’t turn out.  I put them in too late in the year and they didn’t get the water they needed.  It was my first time growing cucumbers and I learned that I need more garden space before I try them again.  They vine out all over the place and hubby will be building a cucumber trellis next time I try planting them.

The onions I grew were great, but I didn’t plant nearly enough.  This year I will be putting in about 4 x’s the onion sets I did last year.

Spinach and kale are two crops that I plan to grow this year.  The are cool weather plants so I’ll be putting them in early spring and maybe again in the fall.  They are great additions to soups and salads, so freezing a good crop of spinach and kale will be a nice addition to our freezer supply of food.

Peas are another addition to the garden list this year.  Easy to grow and easy to can or freeze for use during the fall and winter next year.  Another early spring plant for my garden and one that will need some fencing as they need something to hold onto as they grow.

I really wish I would have put in a crop of green beans last year.  I love having a nice supply of canned green beans on the shelves.   Heat them up as a side dish or throw them in soups or stews.

We had peppers, peppers and more peppers from our garden last year.  I have jars and jars and jars of pickled jalapeno and Serranos stored.  I will likely put in a Serrano and jalapeno plant as I work at finding the perfect salsa recipe for canning, but I’m e.  What I wish I would have had this year is more red and green peppers in the freezer.  I kick myself every time I purchase another pepper at the grocery store this winter.  So more sweet peppers will grace the garden this year.

I’m still in the planning stages and haven’t decided what else to put in the garden this year.  My dilemma isn’t deciding what to grow, but how much.  With a move in our unforeseen future, I’m trying to find the right balance of growing and preserving what we need, but not so much that we can’t move it all.

There is certainly a lot to be learned from gardening and I don’t anticipate that I’ll ever figure it all out.  But as long as I have a garden, I’ll have good food for me and my family and the neighbors 🙂

Snowy Thoughts

The snow is coming down. It’s not coming down vertically as light fluffy flakes, but instead millions of tiny snow flakes are blowing horizontally across the yard.

DSC_1224

Every once in a while a stronger gust of wind sending even more flakes blowing off the roof of the house, spiraling down to the ground. Drifts of snow forming across the yard.  Our fire pit slowly being buried in white.

DSC_1227

 

According to the forecast, we have several more hours of snow yet to fall.  A total of 6″ – 8″ inches expected, with winds becoming stronger and temperatures continuing to drop as the day goes on.

Our dogs don’t seem to mind the snow at all.

Snowy face Zoey
Snowy face Zoey (Keeshond)

 

Jagger (Papillon) and Jada (Keeshond)
Jagger (Papillon) and Jada (Keeshond)

 

As I have been watching the winter storm today, my mind has been wandering to what our life on the homestead might be like in weather like this and I realize just how unprepared I am.  No insulated overalls, coat, or gloves for working in weather like this.  No insulated work boots either.  I do have a couple of pair of really thick, warm wool socks.  I suppose I could start a new farm fashion trend with my Vera Wang wool coat and Ugg boots, but somehow they just don’t ooze ‘farm life.’

So much learning and preparation that still needs to be done for our life on the farm.  And no time like the present to start learning and preparing.

 

Homesteading Practice

Based on the gifts I received this year, it seems Santa felt I needed some things for the homestead and surprised me with some unexpected gifts.

One gift I really needed was a yoga DVD. Getting in better physical shape is a must for the homestead. Not that having a homestead won’t help get me in better physical shape, but doing that now should make the transition much easier.

I also received a cast iron Dutch oven and small square skillet. I’m absolutely convinced that no homestead is complete without cast iron and am sure it’s written as a law in the homesteading manual somewhere 🙂 Of course lifting my cast iron skillets and Dutch oven several times a day would also go a long way in helping me get in better physical shape.

The two surprise gifts I received were a yogurt makers and a mozzarella cheese making kit.

I tried making yogurt before and while it tasted fine, it was pretty runny. Hopefully this will put me on the road to making some good yogurt.

Apparently, Santa was listening to me talk about all my plans for making my own cheese one day. I haven’t done a lot of research, simply because I’m not living in the country with my own goats or a cow for milk. Now that I have the kit, I have to at least try making some cheese.

What I really need to research now, is where I can get fresh raw pasture fed cow milk for yogurt and cheese making.

Santa also brought me some books on homesteading, raising goats and chickens. I also received some magazines on hobby farming and sustainable living. Educating myself is one of the best things I can do to prepare for our homesteading lifestyle, so I’m appreciative of these books and magazines.

The future holds some wonderful possibilities for us and continuing to prepare is vital to our success.  Thank you Santa for sharing my homesteading vision and bringing me such wonderful gifts!

 

A Sign of Spring

It’s a snowy day here in Central IL, but today these arrived.

DSC_0267

And seeds in the mail means spring is just around the corner!!!!

We are expecting two more shipments of seeds that should arrive either this week or next and I’m anxious to get some of our seedlings going for our garden this year.  Plus, our garden doubles as Earth Science for the girl’s homeschool science program this spring and next spring and the spring after that, etc., etc., etc.  🙂

We Love Books

We are a book loving family and have a lot of books available to read at all times in our home.  So when the opportunity was presented for me to become an Ambassador for Barefoot Books, I said yes.

If you aren’t familiar with Barefoot Books, please check them out http://debra-weeks.barefootbooks.com/.  They are high quality, multi-cultural children’s books, puzzles, games, etc.

I have added a Barefoot Books tab at the top of my blog page and will be sharing information about new items, sales and will even be doing some fun give-aways, so please check in for updates.

Would You Ever Homeschool?

I came across this article today and it got me thinking more about homeschooling.

Homeschooling has been around for centuries and yet it still seems to conjure up a lot of controversy.  To be completely honest, I’m one of those moms who has stated more than once, “I will never home school.  Unless, for some reason, it would become necessary to do so.”  In my mind necessity equalled living on an island without any public or private school system in place.  But just like homeschooling has gone through changes over the years, so has my view of homeschooling.  So I sit on my little island (no, we’re not literally on an island, unless you consider a small town in the middle of corn and soybean fields an island) and there are school options, none of which are bad, but my little island doesn’t come with a public or private school option that feels right for my children.  Maybe it’s because in the same way homeschooling has changed over the years, so have the private and public school sectors.

I ave asked myself several questions over the last few weeks.

– What is best for Lili?

– What is best for Naomi?

– What is best for our family as a whole?

– What would homeschooling look like in our home?

– What benefits would we have in sending our girls to private school?

– What benefits would we have in sending our girls to public school?

And I have a friend who have suggested some other alternative such as after schooling and now ask myself if that is something that could work for our family.

I’ve done a lot of research and have been considering all the pros and cons of each choice.  None of them perfect in my book, but certainly some more perfect than others for our family.

So where am I in making a decision you ask?  Today, I would have to say I’m leaning toward homeschooling.  I say today, because I’m still leaving options open for consideration should something change.

And why homeschooling you ask?  I’ve been researching, reading blogs, articles and looking at websites, in an attempt to determine the best option for the girls and for our family.  Then about a week ago it all became very clear to me when I suddenly realized that other than the 3 mornings a week Lili is in a private pre-school program, I’m already homeschooling.  We do workbooks to help learn letters, numbers, shapes, and colors; we do art and crafts projects; we have history lessons; we study geography and social studies; we read; we go on field trips to the zoo, museums, parks, etc.; we have lessons in the different sciences; and the list goes on.  Lili’s teacher tells me she is definitely above average and I would like to believe that it’s not only because she’s one smart cookie, but it’s also because Dave and I have encouraged her to love learning.  That is part of our job as parents and we’ve taken that responsibility seriously.

Even though we do many homeschooling activities in our home, I’ve not structured our day as a school day and that part of homeschooling is something I would have to work on.  But I have been homeschooling none-the-less.

I’ve talked a lot about Lili, but what about Naomi though?  Naomi loves learning as well, but in a very different way.  While Lili is not only content, but prefers to sit and work on workbooks, loves reading and art projects, Naomi prefers to be on the move.  She loves imaginative play and learns a lot by watching everyone and everything going on around her (which can be both good and bad).  She too loves reading books, but doesn’t want to sit for long periods of time working on workbooks or art projects.  She is much happier being up and moving around.

As I look at the benefits of homeschooling, a big one would have to be the flexibility that is given to meet each of my children’s individual learning styles.  While I can imagine Lili sitting at a desk all day, I can’t imagine Naomi being successful sitting all day.  And yes, I realize she’s only 2 1/2, but even at 2 1/2, I could imagine Lili being successful sitting in school all day.  What I certainly can’t imagine is either of my girls being happy or satisfied sticking with a required curriculum instead of being given the flexibility and opportunity to spend ample time pursuing their interests when those interests are at their peak.  I can’t imagine telling either of my girls, “I know you want to learn about the solar system, but we only have 15 minutes tonight because you have homework, dinner, baths and bed so you can get up and head to school tomorrow morning.”  While this works well and is preferred for many children and their families, I just don’t we fit that same mold.

Fortunately, we have some time before we have to make a decision one way or the other.  I basically have between 4 and 5 months before we absolutely have to make a decision.  This allows me the time to give homeschooling a trial run.  I can check out curriculums, set up a schedule and program that will help us better determine if homeschooling is something that will work for the girls and our family.

As always, I’m open to suggestions and opinions, so please feel free to leave a comment here on my blog.  And I ask you to leave the comments here because they will be much easier for me to go back and look at later.