the pond the back way

Today was real summer. I was sure this morning that Walden Pond would be closed for lots of the day due to capacity, and I wanted to swim without worrying about that timing. So we went in the back way! Of course, that meant we had to walk a couple miles to get there, but that was all part of the fun.

the boys walking along a woodsy trail on the side of a hill

walk to swim

We parked at the Walden Woods project and walked in along the Sudbury River. We didn't take the longest path, but it was far from the shortest either. The hiking was fun, and it was actually the imminence of lunch time that kept our route from extending even farther. It was lovely and cool in the woods, and the bugs weren't bad at all (we were nervous when right at the start we crossed paths with someone wearing a full mesh veil). We got to the pond right at lunch time, and even though everyone was hungry the water looked so beautiful most of us had to take a dip before eating. And I can tell you that nobody waited half an hour (an hour?!) afterwards!

the boys swimming in Walden Pond

yay pond

On the way home we took the most direct path to the car—only about a 20-minute walk. It would have been fine even longer though, since spirits were still high. Good outing.


moments from the week

the boys making bracelets with little colored rubber bands on a playground

this week's occupation

Moments from the past week.

Zion and Elijah playing in their messy bedroom

on a rainy day

Zion and Elijah biking on a wide path in a white pine wood

piney path

Zion and Elijah eating veggies at Grandma's outside table

good food at Grandma's

the boys walking along a woods path in their swimsuits

heading home from swimming




fourth of july

Since before Harvey was born, Fourth of July for us has meant the Picnic in the Park in Concord—and we've really missed it the last two years of pandemic restrictions! This year it was back, and we experienced it to the fullest.

Zion and Elijah eating blue cotton candy amidst the crowd

cotton candy is back!

Over the three-year gap since last time we went we stopped using the cargo bike, so I wondered briefly how we would get all the food and supplies for the day to Concord. As it happened it was no trouble at all with three strong kids who can carry their own bags. We shared the load out and, while mine was the heaviest with the tent, rug, and extra waters (and ice packs!) the boys did their share too. We rode in with friends, including a friend of Elijah's who did fantastic on the first "long ride" of his life.

We did all the fair things: listened to music and danced; bought cotton candy, popcorn, lemonade, and pie with ice cream; played on the playground; sprayed the firehose; and watched dogs catch frisbees. We also played Uno. And of course there were the field games!

Zion and Elijah near the finish line in a sack race with a bunch of other kids

hop to the finish and don't look back

We're a competitive bunch, so I'm happy to report we acquitted ourselves well. Zion won a sack race and a three-legged race (with me as partner), and Harvey and I came second in another three-legged heat. And Zion and his friend won three out of the five sponge toss rounds they entered (Harvey and I again came in second in a different round). And Elijah was happy with how well he did against the competition. He and his friend were amazing at the three-legged race, and would definitely have won a contest against people with similarly-sized legs who actually tied them together.

It wasn't a celebration of United States patriotism—I don't know how much we're feeling that these days. It was a celebration of summer, and local community, and friends, and it did that perfectly.

Elijah playing Uno with a friend on a picnic blanket, a little American flag alongside him

ok, there were some flags


the garden in early July

the garden on July 3

July 3

Things continue to move along in the garden. Since the last update we've eaten lots of snap peas, and picked the first cucumber and zucchinis. Raspberries and black raspberries are ripening faster than we can pick them (though Lijah is doing his best!) and we've even had a few blueberries already (seems ahead of schedule). Were also picking herbs (basil, cilantro, mint, oregano...), baby spinach and chard, rhubarb, and kale. Lots of kale. Next up is beans: the bush beans will be ready in two or three days it looks like. And, most exciting, we might see a tomato before the next update! Here's hoping.

closeup of just-ripe blueberries


green tomatoes

encouraging growth

a lower view of the garden, looking across the row of peppers

looking through the peppers


500 hours

Not only was Monday a big day thanks to Fourth of July celebrations, it was also a special occasion for our family: the day that we reached 500 hours outside (and smashed past it, to 506). We're doing this 1,000 hours thing and I'm having fun recording our time, after I come back inside, on a spreadsheet. We started off doing the beautiful "color in a box per hour" recording sheets, but it was too easy to lose track of which hours we'd recorded—we're not organized enough for that. The spreadsheet is easier, plus—plus!—it gives me our average hours per day for the year and each month, along with the running total for the year. We reached 500 slightly past the midway point in the year, and we haven't quite hit the 2.75 hours/day mark that we need to be sure of 100, but there's more warm weather in the second half of the year than the first so I'm not worried. Plus we haven't even gone camping yet! Here's to another 500 amazing hours this year!

inside the ropes

Freeman Lake has provided us with endless hours of fun so far in 2022. In the winter we skated on it for hours. Then not long after the ice melted we started bringing boats to paddle around in and, when the water warmed up enough not to kill, jump off of. The last few weeks of park day, though, have been boatless. That's because school has ended and official summer has begun, which means lifeguards, rules, and ropes.

kids swimming in the swimming area at Freeman Lake

roped in

Actually, despite significant grousing from many kids and parents (homeschoolers are really united by a dislike of rules) everybody has had a great time swimming inside the protected area. Sure, it's so shallow that the adults and big kids don't have enough depth to tread water in. But it's still wet and cool and filled with fun people. And not only our group: with their liberation from school all sorts of other kids have been able to come to the park, and our kids have even played with some of them. Amazing!

Elijah and Harvey on pool floats in the pond with friends

chillin inside the boundries


epic day

What a day we had today! We started off with a hike in Greenough Land with our school friends—half of whom are just back from two weeks of traveling. Greenough Land isn't so large, but we made the most of it with two hours of walking and playing followed by lunch in the parking lot.

the kids walking along the edge of a little pond

out in the woods

After that I took the boys across Carlisle to Great Brook for some biking. See, we got a new bike rack (after the old one fell apart and dropped the bikes on the road as we were driving, which deserves a post of its own!) and I wanted to test it out. Plus I wasn't sure how long our walk was going to be, so I planned for further exercising. As it happened the boys were tired enough to prefer %%%not doing more, but I was committed. With the promise of ice cream at the end of the ride they went along with me. We only did a couple miles, but they were hard (and fun!) hilly, woodsy miles, so the post-ride frozen treats were well-deserved.

the boys eating ice cream at Great Brook Farm

ice cream with the cows

Then when we got home Leah was heading out to the pool and asked the boys if they wanted to go along. Never mind that they'd been completely wiped out on the drive home, the idea of swimming gave the younger two a new jolt of energy and as soon as they could change they were out the door again. Harvey and I needed a bit of rest, but after we got that we went out and did an hour and a half of solid work in the garden. To cap the day off, friends came over for dinner on the deck and the kids played outside into the dusk. All that took us to nine hours outside for the day; needless to say that brought us over the 2.75 hour per day average for the year. It's not a given we'll stay there, of course, but a couple more days like today will seal the deal.


moments from the week

Zion ready to catch a wet sponge in the sponge toss


Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Zion in the pond

swim heads

Zion and Elijah picking blackberries by the playhouse


Elijah taking a drink on his bike on a trail by a farm

farm biking

pesto pasta, sliced cucumber, and cooked zucchini on our picnic table

early July food is green


I get a ride

While it's super fun riding with the kids, I also like to get out on my own every once and a while. Like yesterday. After church I felt so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, so obviously the thing to do was head out on my bike for an off-road excursion around Walden Pond and Flints Pond. Well, it couldn't be off-road the whole way: as much as I pore over OpenStreetMap looking for ways to connect trail segments, it does take some time on streets and bike paths to actually get anywhere. But maybe not as much as you'd think! Of course, I put the ride on Strava so I would be able to know where I went—you can look at my course here. I will say, I wish Strava would recognize a difference between trail riding and road riding: it's not fair that my 24 miles on swampy, rooty singletrack is compared straight up to someone riding on smooth roads! It's no wonder my average speed was just 8 mph! On the map of my route the straight lines of bike path and road look like half the route, but I can tell you they were less than ten percent of the effort. Oh well, I guess I do it for fun, so...

berry money

Before we went to the farmers market today the boys and I picked berries: two pints each of raspberries and blueberries. So we didn't need to buy any there. But I couldn't help but notice the pricing on what the farmers brought! We were delighted to note that we'd brought in $32 worth of fresh-picked delight in not more than half an hour. It made us feel plenty rich enough to be able to spend big bucks on fancy market baked goods!

Elijah's hair

Since Harvey stopped cutting his hair a couple years ago his brothers have been thinking about following in his footsteps, and now for the past year or so they have. Zion is looking towards the future and not particularly interested in grooming, so he's mostly just letting his go wild. But Elijah is a boy who's interested in his image, so we're treated regularly to new and dynamic styles.

Elijah posing in the pond, showing off his pig tails

summer style

He's particularly interested in dyeing his hair. He and Leah have actually tried to do it a few times, but it keeps washing out... even with "semi-permanent" hair dye. He does swim a lot, including in chlorinated pools, which might be a factor. Or maybe his hair is just so strong and naturally beautiful that it resists any attempts to alter it? I think some permanent dye is up next.

Elijah's selfie with pink hair

his selfie of the latest attempt


mean deer

I love lilies, and they provide most of the color for the front of our house in July. Or at least they're supposed to. For the past two years deer have stopped by for a visit just before each variety is about to bloom and neatly nibbled off all of the buds. So no color this year. And I want to divide the lilies, but I can't even remember which variety is which if I never seem them bloom! Argh...

ready for adventure

This morning our friends invited us to Berry Pond, which is in Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover. It's about half an hour away, so not someplace we usually go by ourselves, but definitely worth a trip with friends. I wanted to make a real outing of it, so I packed up a big picnic in the cooler, told the boys to bring clothes for hiking along with their swimming things, and loaded up the bikes on the new bike rack. I knew our friends were just thinking about a relaxing couple hours on the beach, but it never hurts to be ready for anything that might come up. Like maybe the pond might be closed? It was! Our friends were dismayed and apologetic, but we didn't mind a bit. With all our prep and packing, we were all set to lead a short hike and then set a beautiful, full table for a lunch picnic.

our picnic feast on a picnic table


And then after we ate the kids went down to the beach anyway. They figured there was a lot of fun to be had even without swimming, and they weren't wrong. Especially when they decided that even wading quite deeply would be fine. They spent a happy hour or so hunting for pond creatures to stock the aquarium they built by digging a hole in the sand and lining it with plastic sheeting. Delightful!

the kids wading in the pond with nets

they aren't swimming

After that our friends were done—with a one-year-old you sometimes have to limit your outings—so they headed home. But we hadn't used the bikes yet! So we made contact with some different friends and arranged an off-road cycling outing at Great Brook Farm. We went an extremely round-about route in order to get in some errands on the way, but that was fine because it gave the boys' clothes some time to dry (we helped by hanging them out the windows). So they had something to wear when we hit the trails.

the boys and friends riding on a dusty trail by a cornfield

high summer riding

It was hot, and the second adventure of the day is always harder than the first. So once again Great Brook proved a good choice for a ride, because it let me buy everyone ice cream at the end. Now that's how you end a full day of outdoor excitement!

Zion eating a giant blue-and-pink ice cream cone

cotton candy flavor


moments from the week

shirtless Zion taking a drink in our friends' garden

Backyard Farm Club is hot work

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Elijah playing Root in our darkened kitchen

keeping cool with board games

Harvey picking blueberries from our netted bushes

blueberry season

Elijah on his bike in our street

I like his outfit

a birthday party on the beach at Freeman Lake

birthday on the beach

Harvey and Zion dancing in the rain in front of our house

dancing in the rain

Elijah with purple-streaked hair and a choker by some lily pads

style for the pond

Harvey, Zion, and a friend checking out the big spray from a leak in an irrigation line

big leak


the garden in mid July

July 17

As predicted, we got our first tomatoes before the middle of July. Just barely: maybe three or four cherry tomatoes. But the big ones are ripening up nicely! We're also picking lots of beans, cucumbers, and blueberries. And watering a lot... I sure wish it would rain! The peas can't stand the heat and are totally done, along with all the greens but kale. Good thing we love kale!

moments from the week

Elijah lying sandy on the beach

beach boy

Moments from the past week.

lots of kids at work in our garden picking beans and blueberries

farm club pickers

the boys picking wild high-bush blueberries

a good year for wild blueberries

Zion on the sunset beach showing off his tattoos

tattoo collection

elijah riding no-handed on a sandy path

vacation cycling

Zion and Elijah wading way out in shallow water in Welfleet Harbor

shallow Welfleet


vacation number 1

One stressor of summer is finding time to get away. When can we possibly have room in our schedule for vacation trips?! Well, now’s the time. We’re gearing up to head north for our annual camping excursion on Wednesday morning, and the second half of last week saw us enjoying the ocean on the Outer Cape.

the boys walking along the edge of the ocean in the evening

it's so big there's lots to enjoy

Oh, did we enjoy it! It was hundreds of degrees hot when we left, and still very warm by the seaside, so being in the water felt like a good plan. Our trip down was built around a visit to the National Seashore, so the boys and I worked hard to pack up the car while Leah delivered the dogs to their vacation accommodation, all so we’d be able to get on the road in time to get to Eastham by lunchtime. We just made it and enjoyed a relaxed meal in the shade before getting the bikes–all four bikes!—off the amazing new bike rack and hitting the bike path to the beach. The older boys zipped off right away while me and Elijah went at our own pace; he noticed that, for the first time, he was able to do the whole hilly ride without walking even once! And for his part, Harvey commented that the ride gets shorter and shorter every year. Funny that!

Elijah riding over a bridge over a salt marsh

the best ride

The air at the beach was still warm and the sand was blazing hot, but the water was comfortable: mid-fifties Farenheit, way warmer than usual! The waves were disappointingly small when we arrived but built nicely, so there was plenty of wave action for all (but no blood or other serious injuries). Elijah was excited to figure out body-surfing for the first time in the shallower part of the waves, and sad that he didn’t learn until the last third of our beach time. Leah had a work meeting to take and walked rather than biked, so she didn’t have as much time in the water as we did, but what she had was plenty for her. Us boys could have stayed until it got dark, but we had a dinner date so with some reluctance we dragged ourselves away.

the boys playing in the waves

wave action

Of course, dinner with the grandparents was delightful and we were happy to settle in to their lovely (air-conditioned) house. After dinner and some quiet time we went for a walk to enjoy one of the most interesting attractions of the Outer Cape, so unusual for the East Coast: getting to watch the sunset over the ocean!

Zion and the sunset at the beach

Zion silhouette

The next day dawned cloudy and hazy, and we hung around the house for a good while before we got bored enough to organize an expedition into Welfleet. First there was some shopping: we browsed the toy store idly for a good half hour before I decided I’d help finance the purchase of souvenirs, then seriously for another 15 minutes until the boys picked out what they wanted (a puppet, a stuffed dog, and some sticky putty). Then Leah and her mom went to check out some of the more sophisticated shops while the boys and I got the bikes off the car and headed out to explore the town and harbor.

the boys eating fried food at a beach picnic table

exploring the food options

We did a little off-road riding, played on a playground, and had a light lunch at the seafood place (you can’t visit the ocean and not get some fried seafood! Even if one of us is a vegetarian and another said he preferred chicken). There was some frustration and grumpiness, but we resolved it in time to enjoy a happy hour of beach time. Mostly digging.

Elijah behind a sand castle

it was a group project

Zion and Elijah wading way out in shallow water in Welfeet Harbor

no swimming at low tide

Back at the house a visit from older relatives kept us indoors for the afternoon, but after dinner we took another walk on the local beach. The resident connoisseurs were disappointed in the lack of sunset display, but we didn’t mind: waves on the bay more than made up for it!

the boys watching waves

this is supposed to be the calm side!

The next morning the picture couldn’t have been more different: sunny and flat calm. I got in a quick dip early early, and then we were all down at the beach by 8:30 for a couple hours of swimming and hanging out.

the boys on rafts in the calm blue water, Leah on a towel on the beach

the life

And that was it! After lunch we needed to head home in order to pick up the doggies and water the plants, which just barely didn’t die in the extreme heat. It was a great trip but did feel super short… so it’s a good thing we have another one to look forward to soon!


bike rack story

So I should say something about our new bike rack! Which first means I need to write about what happened to the old one. It died. In retrospect it was close to 20 years old and a veteran of heavy use, so it could be that I should have been inspecting and monitoring it more carefully. But I wasn’t, so I was surprised as anyone when it suffered a catastrophic failure and dumped our bikes on the road a month or so ago. Happily we were very close to home and on a little, lightly trafficked street; if it had happened on the highway I don't want to imagine the carnage. As it was there was no damage to the bikes and I was able to jury-rig a way to get them home (and if I hadn’t the boys could have ridden them easily enough!). I think one of the straps broke to initiate the collapse, but when it went two of the others let go as well under the strain, and then one of the arms that holds the bike bent so badly it broke off when I tried to straighten it. So that thing’s done.

With Leah’s encouragement we got a big fancy new one to replace it. Unlike the old one, it can hold all four bikes–with a bit of a struggle, sure, but little enough struggle that I’m willing to do it every time rather than try to make room in the car. And it has built-in restraining straps so we don’t have to worry about losing the bikes, as long as the rack stays attached to the trunk. Which I trust it will do for another 20 years or so. Here’s to lots more biking adventures!

moments from the week

Zion and Elijah wading in the water in Bar Harbor

Maine vacation

Moments from the past week.

lots of kids pulling a tarp across the lawn at the 4H fairground

how many 4H kids does it take to move a tarp?

the boys and friends lying on a blanket watching a concert at the bandstand


Zion and Elijah on a wooden troll statue

troll tourists

the boys and friends eating lunch in the shade of little trees on a mountaintop

mountaintop lunch

Elijah on the muddy beach at sunset

Maine sunset