raising the stakes

When I started gardening I scoffed at the stakes offered for sale at the hardware store. Close to ten dollars for a length of wood? Ridiculous! I just used all kinds of things I scavenged here and there: branches, broken tool handles, marking stakes picked up from parking lots in the spring, old hockey sticks... Then later I came into possession of a bundle of proper garden stakes and I realized that they were actually pretty good. They're cedar, so they last, and they're cut with attention to the grain so they stay straight year after year. I had eight—so I've been using them by choice for all my staking needs. For the tomatoes especially. This spring one of them broke for the first time, from rot, and at the same time garden expansion meant I needed more, so I was forced to consider if I needed to actually buy some for myself.

Maybe I will one day. But for now I've found another solution, one that I can't believe I never used before. See, I have some power tools, and also lots of old lumber, and it takes maybe 45 seconds to turn six feet of old pressure-treated decking into two or three top-quality professional-looking stakes. A run through the circular saw to strip a one-by-one length, then zip zip on the miter saw at a 45° angle for a little point. I made some yesterday to stake up the corn which, unexpectedly, mostly blew down in a violent thunderstorm the other night. Not all the stalks broke. I don't know how long my new homemade stakes will last, but they look pretty nice now and even if they do fail to go the distance I've got plenty of wood to make some new ones next season!

with friends

I've been feeling pretty lonely lately. My family is wonderful and I'm super grateful to get to spend so much time with them, but they've got their own stuff going on and and it's not fair to ask them to fulfill all my emotional needs. So while I admit it does make me a little nervous, I'm happy that we're starting to be able to get out and do things with other people. Yesterday we took a hike with some homeschool co-op friends who we'd missed so much over the past three months, and it was delightful!

the boys with their feet in a marshy river

in Nashoba Brook

We walked in the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area; we'd never been there before but will definitely be going back. The river itself is the best part, with bridges and rocky pools and marshy segments making the walk along it endlessly interesting. But it had some competition in a man-made cave. I would have guessed it was a root cellar, except it was a little more complicated than you would really need for that; I understand that it has a mysterious reputation in local lore. In any case we had fun exploring it.

the boys shielding their eyes from the camera flash in a root cellar cave

the only time I'll ever use a flash is in a cave

The whole family came along—a pandemic bonus! Leah enjoyed talking with Kelley, but not as much as Scout and Blue liked playing with our friends' dog. We walked two miles; the three dogs must have covered five or six.

Leah with the dogs on river rocks

getting some training in while we stop to play

The kids got plenty of exercise too: when he has friends to run with, even Lijah can cover some distance without complaining! And I exercised my socialization muscles. A great morning all around.


why can't I write to people?

You know I have my struggles to write in this blog as much as I'd like to. In the morning my brain is working well but there are many distractions; in the late evening it's quiet but it takes me fifteen minutes to write a sentence. As hard as that is, it's been even harder for me to keep in touch with my friends. Why on earth is that?! Shouldn't I be able to dash off a quick message—"hey, thinking of you... how are things going?" But then I sit down to write and I get stuck. What if they wonder why I haven't talked to them in so long? What if they've got something serious going on, and my tone is too lighthearted? Why haven't they written to me: did I do something wrong? It's maddening. And as bad as that is, for work I'm meant to be writing to the families I work with and my volunteers, and that's ten thousand times harder! I want to write, I really do. I care about all of those people and would love to be in contact with them. So what's my problem?!

All that is to say, if we're friends and I haven't written to you, I really want to and wish I had. I'll try again tomorrow!

the work for today

I almost never write about my woodworking projects here. That's because I want to wait until they're done, and I actually never finish anything. I just get close enough that it's usable, and all the problems left are hard ones that I don't want to deal with. But today I did some work on Harvey's bed, and after four years—five years?—I think we might be getting close!

Actually, today's work was more in the nature of repairs, but they were repairs that I should have done right the first time. The great part about being a self-taught maker is that when you go back to past work you see how terrible it is and really get a sense of the progress that you've made! In this case there were some problems with the design that I was puzzled at how to solve, and my original stab at a solution finally broke down (well, broke down a few weeks ago; Harvey and Leah are very patient with me). This afternoon I saw a better way to do it right away, and it was a matter of just a couple hours work to not only fix the bed, but make it stronger and very slightly better-looking than before.

You know what would be awesome at this point in the post? Pictures! But I didn't take any. So I'll have to write a couple thousand words. The bed in question is a loft, and as originally designed one end was held up by the boys' dresser. The area under the bed I turned into kind of a cozy nook by putting some sides on it. But I ran into two problems. First, I wanted the planking to be unmarred by nail heads or screws, and my efforts to attach it from the back wasn't robust enough. And second, when the boys slammed their drawers enough times the dresser moved and the bed frame fell off it a little bit. It was the first problem that led to today's work—three missing planks on the wall were too many for Leah—but as I looked at it I realized the second was more serious. Happily, there was a pretty easy solution that took care of both, and it was done in time for Harvey to sleep in the bed! (He did let me know at supper time that he'd be happy to sleep on the floor downstairs; he knows my work patterns!)


moments from the week

Zion holding one of the young hens as Lijah pets her

appreciating the almost grown-up chicks

Moments from the past week.

Harvey opening his mouth to catch raindrops

rain is rare and precious lately

Scout looking ridiculous sleeping on his back in the living room

these dogs work hard

Zion walking on a path in a field with the dogs ahead of him

walking with the dogs

Zion in a mask, Lijah in a monkey suit, giving battle poses


Leah playing tennis with Harvey and Zion

our new pastime

Zion walking across a fallen tree far off the ground

always adventuring