corn is amazing

I love having corn in the garden. Never mind that I've just about never eaten any that I've grown; I just think it's so lovely to have the corn plants for their beauty and for all that they represent about growing food. It's been a couple years since I found room for any though, and I hadn't really planned for corn for this year either. But that doesn't matter, because we still had a jar full of flint corn seeds from, oh, three-four years ago that we never made into corn meal. I planted 1/100th of them just a few days ago, and look what they're doing now!

corn sprouts a day after they emerged

new old sprouts

Once they get going a little bit I'll plant black beans around them, and the winter squash will get in there too a little bit later. If all goes well, that is; last year lots of the squash seeds didn't germinate, and all the plants that did emerge got eaten. Some things are hard... not corn though. Corn is amazing.

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today's diversion

Sometimes I work hard on gardening and woodworking and cooking and go on exciting adventures, and sometimes all I want to do is breed pretend monsters. This morning I capped off our study on reproduction by introducing a very simple pencil-and-paper monster breeding simulator, and it was an immediate hit. In the original version Zion and I worked to breed vicious fighting machines, and Harvey bred the cutest monsters he could; for his part, Elijah picked his breeding pairs pretty much at random and came up with the best names he could for the offspring. Only, since we had only seven traits and they always bred true if both parents shared one, by the fourth generation all my monsters were perfect and the only thing that kept me from keeping the lines going indefinitely was the small number of original stock. So we made a new version after lunch. That one incorporates dominant and recessive traits, with six traits that follow simple Mendelian crosses, plus four more numeric ones that are more fuzzy in their connection to actual inheritance but hopefully represent some actual real breeding goals. Which is great, but now it takes more than twice as long to generate a monster. So now I'm wondering how I can put the whole thing on to the computer, which is why I'm still awake past 10:00!

Leah is mildly interested in the genetics—she watched a video on Mendelian genetics this afternoon to get back up to speed—but her real priority is creating a game you can win. So she's figuring how to add money, and building a monster store that will offer set prices for monsters that fit particular characteristics. She's also telling us we should be charging stud fees. So there's lots more to develop! Will it take up all of our time tomorrow too?

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dogs v rhubarb

With all the rhubarb that's growing in the garden the rhubarb patch is a lush and inviting spot. Maybe that's why the dogs chose to wallow in it the other day. Or it could be they were fighting, I'm not sure. All I know it that, in the aftermath, there were lots of smushed leaves and broken stalks. Of course I salvaged what I could, and then I was faced with the question of what to do with it all. Pie is delicious but with only Harvey and I eating them a third in two weeks would maybe be a little excessive. I also thought of rhubarb crisp; but it seemed like that would give rise to the same problem, only more so. So I made a rhubarb cake.

That wasn't a perfect solution. First, I was making up the recipe—adapting it from my favorite cake base—and I didn't make allowances for all the rhubarb when considering the cooking time. So the cake was a little underdone. That, combined with the fact that all the rhubarb sank towards the bottom of the bundt pan and made a solid layer, meant that when I tipped the pan over to get the cake out, all of what was meant to be the top crust stayed in the pan. I scraped it out and blobbed it on top anyway, and then put on the glaze. It almost looks like I did it on purpose...

rhubarb cake, somewhat jumbled on top

looks edible, right?

The second problem is that, still, only Harvey and I were interested. Zion and Elijah are committed to avoiding rhubarb entirely. Their loss! The cake was delicious: basically a brown-sugar cake, with a texture like a pineapple upside-down cake, with hints of rhubarb and ginger. Plus the delicious lemon glaze! We happily ate it for three desserts—dinner, lunch, dinner—but there was still plenty left. Then yesterday evening, after the table was cleared of everything but half the cake, I went back into the dining room and surprised Blue standing up on the bench chowing down on the glazey top. I suppose it's nice to know that someone else appreciated it too!

Wait a second—do you think he planned the whole thing?!

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work ethics

We're reading Farmer Boy at bedtime these days. I love that book. We're almost through; this evening we read the chapter called "Threshing", in which Almanzo and his father spend a snowy late fall day threshing wheat on the barn floor. As they get started Almanzo asks why they don't bring the wheat to the new threshing machine in town, and his Father tells him it's because all it saves is time: it wastes wheat, and it damages the straw so it's no good to feed the animals. And he doesn't see any purpose to saving time. After all, he tells Almanzo, they won't have anything else to do on stormy winter evenings; would Almanzo rather just sit around twiddling his thumbs? No, thinks Almanzo, he has enough of that on Sundays.

I'm aware of the perils of trying to raise children according to the Little House series. I think they're perils common to many in my circle of friends. But when the boys start the day with an hour of Minecraft, then enjoy a leisurely breakfast followed by an indeterminate amount of time reading at the table before they do their dishes, I start to wonder if I'm doing something wrong. At that just takes us up to 8:00! I wonder if Almanzo would have enjoyed the idea of leisure time more if he had had an iPad?

Of course, I can also look at myself—I acknowledge my own difficulties, historical and current, with sustained effort. And I count blogging here as work! But I have a long list of things I'd like to accomplish, which gives me a chance to try and model a proper work ethic. It might be working: today Harvey made breakfast—waffles!—and offered to pick up the slack of Zion's work before supper when Zion was absent. Of course, he's the one child who's not listening to Farmer Boy. I wonder what that means...

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moments from the week

Scout and Blue lying on the grass

we have two dogs

Moments from the past week.

Zion using the stirrup hoe in the garden

cultivating

Harvey and Zion with their bikes on a hill overlooking the airport

expedition to the airport

the boys playing with the sprinkler and tarp slip-and-slide

slipping and sliding

smushed rhubarb plants

when the dogs roll in the rhubarb plants

Zion sitting on a big rock, Harvey reaching up

further exploration

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