moments from the week

Zion and Elijah running in tall last-years grass

playing in the grass

Moments from the past week.

Scout and Blue fighting lying on their backs

upside-down dogs

Zion and Elijah on their bikes on a rolling grassy hill

touring Lexington

playing on a baseball field in rain and hail

baseball in the rain and hail

Elijah, sticking his tongue out, with a teacup on the chicken coop roof

tea time

lots of kids on one side of a tug-of-war match at the 4H fairground

tug at the fair

Zion and friends on a fallen tree extending into a pond

drawn to water


the garden in early May

the garden mostly empty, but with beds prepped

look at all that great dirt!

Not a ton more growing outside compared to last time—though the tomatoes are so big I wish I could feel safe planting them out! Mostly the visible difference is that we've been working hard clearing the winter mulch off the beds and topping them off with compost. The compost operation is going great, and the kids have been a great help with all the steps of the process.

We have as much asparagus as we can eat, and the rhubarb is ready to go if I ever have enough time to make a pie. I sowed some spinach and arugula that hasn't come up yet, and planted out some lettuces from the garden store. Most exciting of all, the peas are up!

closeup of pea seedlings

you can do it, little peas!

I'm going to take extra good care of them after mysterious failures each of the last two years. I want some snap peas!


spring farm extravaganza

We can count the fair at church two weekends ago as a warm-up, because this past Saturday we jumped head-on into a bigger event: the Middlesex County 4H Spring Extravaganza. And not just as participants, either—we were there to work! But don't worry, there was plenty of time to play and enjoy as well, because the volunteer assignments were so ad-hoc and disorganized that, beyond setting up and cleaning up, there wasn't really anything for them to do. Except do fair things, and spend money!

the boys and a friend milking a life-size plastic cow

a celebration of farm life

Besides the food—hamburgers, grilled cheese, chips, brownies, popcorn, Hawaiian shaved ice—they bought raffle tickets, stuffed animals, and books. Which was almost everything they could have spent money on. Some of their friends also paid for henna tattoos, but that didn't interest them. The stuffed animals were delight enough!

Harvey with a little stuffed animal pig on his head

introducing "Hamilton"

And of course, it wouldn't be a proper old-fashioned fair without some field games. Besides the tug-of-war pictured here (Zion and Elijah's team won that contest, I was on the losing side every time I participated), there were sack races. They provided all the excitement anyone could hope for.

Zion and Elijah mid sack-race, with people falling down around them

thrills and spills!

The event was pretty well attended, and it was a cheery sunshiny atmosphere all over the grounds. I didn't take any pictures of the animals, but they were the main attraction: you could visit and pet cattle, sheep, and goats—including a few adorable tiny baby goats. And the horse girls were riding in the ring, showing off their skills. And when the boys needed some time away from the crowd, the fairground has space for that too.

boys sitting on a pavilion in the woods at the edge of a pond

a moment of quiet

This was the first ever Spring Extravaganza; usually Middlesex 4H is content with just the one fair in August. But I guess they've been missing inviting the public to the fairground over the last two years! Of course, the end-of-summer fair is still on the calendar, and promises to be a whole lot bigger and better. We're looking forward to it!

the boys walking on a dirt road on the fair ground, holding bags, balloons, and stuffed animals

after the crowds had gone


happy birthday Zion!

Today is Zion's birthday. I haven't managed to plan his party with his friends yet, but we'll get to that—and we've done plenty of celebrating already, with more to come in the next few days!

Zion in front of his cereal-with-a-birthday candle, as we sing him Happy Birthday

b-day breakfast

That was this morning; besides his birthday treat breakfast of cereal, he also had cards from all of us and the first of his presents (new shifter and grips for his bike). But that wasn't the first of the birthday delights: we kicked things off yesterday evening with a celebratory moment at Bible study, with cake. We were having too much fun singing to get a photo of the candle moment, but here's what the cake looked like as it waited for everyone to be done playing and come eat it.

a cake with buttercream frosting and one candle on our picnic table

Zion's birthday is in apple-blossom time

Then this morning before breakfast I made the same recipe into two dozen cupcakes, which we frosted with our friends during our "school time" this morning to share with more friends at Park Day this afternoon. That gave us yet another chance to sing, but because it was kind of rainy there weren't actually that many friends there. And plus most of them also brought celebratory treats. So we had plenty of cupcakes to bring home, to go with the quarter cake left from yesterday evening.

Zion picking from a tray of cupcakes, each frosted with a pink Z

he gets first pick

So you can see why he doesn't need a party with his friends right away. We need to eat our way through all that cake, and I need to have a couple days of not making cake. But I trust he's had enough celebrating from us to tide him over for a little while!

[edit: I see that last year I said that you can't put a candle in cereal... we sure proved that wrong!]


chick season

As I mentioned, one of the thrills of Zion's birthday yesterday was the arrival of our latest batch of chicks. They were highly anticipated, since our friends got theirs a couple weeks ago. And, as always, they've lived up to the hype!

a 3-day-old chick looking at the camera

look how cute!

Back in the winter at ordering time I picked out the four different breeds I wanted for the optimal beauty of our overall flock, but then the boys each chose one of the prospective birds to claim as their own (not quite counting your chickens before they hatch, but definitely in the same neighborhood!). They've got naming rights as well. The only problem is, it's hard to tell a three-day-old Welsummer chick from a three-day-old Silver Penciled Plymouth Rock chick, so it's possible some names may have to be adjusted in a couple weeks. In any case, one of the chicks is Leia, one is Jawa, and one is Ewa (as well as Zion's birthday the day they arrived is "Star Wars Day," which may have influenced the names). I haven't named my one yet.

the four chicks in their brooder

so I don't know which is which

Like they do, the post office sent someone right over with the peeping box as soon as it came in, without even calling us. Luckily we were only walking to the car, not driving away, so we were able to let our friends know we were going to be late and let the chicks out into their (already-prepared) brooder without delay. Then we waited a bit to watch them get accustomed to their new home, and to make sure the dogs weren't going to eat them. They were certainly very interested.

Harvey and the dogs looking at the chicks in the brooder under the red lights

no color correction can compete with a heat lamp

So much so that I put the chicks up in the office before we left, where they can be shut behind a door. So we don't get to watch them all the time. On the plus side the heat lamp makes the office very warm indeed, just what little chickies like. And so far their cheeping hasn't bothered us at all at night. I think we'll keep them!


to water

This past Sunday Elijah was bored. It was a tired kind of bored: a full day with friends on Friday followed by the fair on Saturday had taken a lot out of us. His brothers were playing games on screens, but he's not interested in that. Because I respect that about him, when he told me for the fifth time that he didn't have anything to do I figured I could try and help him out. It had gotten warm—hot, even—so why didn't we go to the pond? We did.

Elijah waist-deep in Walden Pond

and straight in!

It was delightfully relaxing with just the two of us. Not that the pond was empty, as I had expected; on a beautiful warm weekend day lots of other people had the same idea. Not many of them were swimming though! The water was still pretty chilly. I wasn't swimming either, but that was because I don't actually own a swimsuit right now. I was happy to lie in the sun and almost fall asleep several times. I didn't even peak at the book I brought. Elijah lay in the sun too, in between forays into the water. It made for a good afternoon.

Elijah lying in the sun on a wall by the pond



moments from the week

Elijah in meditation pose by a pond, wearing paper wings

just Elijah on Friday

Moments from the past week.

Elijah in cold water at the pond

fun but cold

the outside table after a blossom-painting art project

blossom time art

Elijah holding a jigsaw on the deck

ready to help out

Zion blowing out birthday candles at his grandparents' house

a party with some grandparents

Zion looking fierce with chalk on his face

it's meant for the climbing wall, but it works as face paint


the best rides don't always go the farthest

On Friday we left our school group gathering a little earlier than we would have otherwise, to keep a date to ride bikes in the woods with people we didn't know as well. In theory, anyway: I issued an invitation to all the homeschoolers I know how to contact en-masse in the Greater Boston and Greater Lowell areas to take a ride with us at Great Brook Farm State Park, in the interest of maybe finding some other people to ride with on weekdays. As it happened, while we had a fine group of four adults and seven kids, all but one adult and one kid were people we already knew very well indeed—including the folks whose house we'd just been at. Oh well, that's good too.

some kids in the distance riding beside a farm fence

riding at the farm

Since our party included two adults without bikes and one three-year-old on a balance bike we weren't exactly chewing up the miles. Instead, we proceded around the wide and smooth Pine Point Loop at a reasonable pace, with the older cyclists zipping ahead and then stopping to ride steep slopes to the side of the trail or climb big rocks or leap over horse jumps as the spirit took them. At some point a few of us did one actual mountain-bike trail, which was a chance for the old MTB hands Harvey, Zion, and Elijah to show off, and for a couple kids newer to the enterprise to experience how much fun it could be.

But as delightful as it is to be on a bike, it was the rocks and streams that were the real fun of the day. A couple of non-Archibald kids and I had a great time climbing the biggest of the rocks we came across, and then playing on a gigantic seesaw formed by a 40-foot (maybe? I didn't have a tape measure) white pine trunk that had fallen on a waist-high rock just right. While we were doing that Zion, Elijah, and a friend got very muddy playing around the edge of the pond, and then decided that the only thing to do to get clean was to submerge themselves up to mid-chest in the spillway.

Elijah, Zion, and a friend waist-deep in a narrow spillway

no mud left on those legs

Which they've probably always wanted to do anyways, so I guess it was fine. But Zion at least wasn't totally happy—or warm—for the rest of the ride. Did he learn his lesson? I'm sure he did not. Water is too hard to resist.

So is bicycling. We'll be out again soon!


the real Pie Day

With the geometry work we've been doing this year, Pi Day felt like something we could really pay attention to. (There may, unrelated to anything else to do with this post, have been some discussion this morning at the breakfast table about how many digits any of us could remember of that famous non-repeating, non-terminating decimal.) But really, to me the significant Pie Day was yesterday, May 9: the day I made the first rhubarb pie of the year.

a rhubarb pie (and a bread) on our back porch table, watched over by Scout

Scout is interested in cooling baked goods

I could have made one earlier, as far as the rhubarb was concerned: it was lack of time that held me back. But that doesn't matter, because it's having pie that we want to celebrate. Harvey and I, at least; the other boys don't care for it. Luckily they were able to fall back on the brownies I made on Saturday and the M&M cookies Leah made on Sunday. We ate the first slices of it after supper yesterday, and there's now either one big piece or two little ones left. You see how excited we were. Suffice it to say there will be more pies before long... the season has begun!


messing about in boats

We picked Varney Playground in Chelmsford for our Park Day location in large part because of its awesome play structure, so we're dismayed that it's scheduled to be torn down and replaced by an insipid plastic nothing before too long. But the beautiful wooden structure isn't Varney's only appeal by any means, and this afternoon it couldn't compete at all with the draw of boats on the pond.

Zion and a friend half-on a tiny kayak, Lijah paddling a regular one

on boats in the water

Three families brought four boats between them, so there were lots of possible combinations and lots of turns taken. One minor setback was that Zion, in charge of bringing our canoe paddles, forgot to put them in the car—but never mind, it led me to learn that you can drive a canoe with nothing more than a stout stick. Good to know! There was one new boat, a tiny sit-on-top kayak, and it was a big hit with the younger kids—especially since the day was so hot and summery that being in the water had some appeal. You couldn't paddle that boat without getting wet anyway, so why not do it from in the water?! If you were under 12, that is; the water was far from warm, so parents and big kids managed to refrain from going in.

The big kids sure took their turns with the dryer boats, though. In fact, their second trip across the pond took so long that we stayed half an hour later than we would have otherwise: half an hour after the absolute latest time we could leave and still have dinner on time. If they want to take a long voyage again, they're going to need to bring either a watch or walkie-talkies. Independence is great!

I was a little disappointed we didn't get to play with the baseball stuff we brought, not to mention the wonderful playground... but it sure is hard to resist the appeal of messing about in boats.

boats and kids on the beach at Freeman Pond

three and a half hours worth


garden summer

Summer has begun in the garden. Studying the forecast, I decided on Monday that we wouldn't have any more frosts this year. So now I get to plant out all the seedlings that have been crowding up the house since February!

lots of seedlings on the porch

they look ready for some dirt

Well, there were only a few back in February, and they were little. But over the past few weeks there's been lots of back and forth from tables inside to different spots outside, with varying levels of sun and wind, as we worked to get seven or so trays hardened off and ready for life in the garden. The tomatoes were the first to go in, yesterday evening when I finally had a moment after a long day of learning and boating. The smell of the salt marsh hay mulch with is the best. Summery.

baby tomato plants mulched with marsh hay

lots of growing to do


the most stressful day of the year

I got my car inspected yesterday. Now for some of you that might be routine, if a little inconvenient, but if your car is like mine you know that there's always considerable doubt whether it'll be able to pass. There are so many things that could go wrong! And at the garage I go to for inspections—only because it's the closest—the guy who does the tests seems to take bitter joy in failing cars for whatever reason he can find. Yesterday when the car in front of me in line was rejected for insufficient tire tread thickness you know I was sweating (well, I was also sweating because I was sitting in a gas station parking lot on an 85° day, but even so). Happily—and surprisingly—my car passed without any trouble. Now I don't have to worry about that for another year! Or, knowing me, 16 or 18 months...

moments from the week

kids lying on the sand at Freeman Pond

beach day at the park

Moments from the past week.

Elijah swinging on a rope swing over a pond

living on the edge

Zion and a friend half-on a tiny kayak, Lijah paddling a regular one

the best boating is when you get wet

me at the outdoor table with pancakes

outdoor breakfasts again

Elijah posing in his Catwings costume

Catwings book party costume

lots of kids sitting on a porch in evening light

summery evening

Zion making a face in front of his baseball birthday cake

big party for the boy


the garden in mid-May

the garden on a mid-May afternoon

slowly filling

It's warm now, and we're getting things into the beds. Thanks to hard work by the kids they're all in good shape, but we're held back by the poor condition of the fences. I don't want to put those precious seedlings in, only to have them all be eaten up by the rabbits and woodchucks! That's something I should have been working on a month ago. Sequencing is hard!

But with judicious use of chickenwire around individual beds we're doing our best. Since I took the pictures in this post I planted out more tomatoes and summer squashes, and I hope to get to peppers and cucumbers tomorrow. And we've got greens!

spinach seedlings and lettuce in the garden


And this time of year the future berries are all very exciting.

a strawberry flower

strawberries first

raspberry buds

then raspberries

blueberry blossoms

and finally blueberries

The only problem is I want to plant way more than I have room for! When can I get a bigger garden?

the garden as seen from the roof of the sandbox

all this space still isn't enough!


celebrating Zion

On Saturday we hosted Zion's birthday party for his friends, which, as tradition dictates, was a pretty big affair with some friends for the rest of us too. In birthday season Zion's fancy turns to thoughts of baseball, so once again his party had a baseball theme. Which in this case meant we played an hour or two of whiffleball. Never mind that it was the hottest day of the year so far: kids and adults alike were committed!

Zion up at bat in our yard with a crowd of kids on deck behind him

hey, batta batta

The kids started up with batting practice as folks began to arrive, and then chose captains for a game with real sides. Then after a break for drinks and chips—despite my concerns, Leah put the chips out before dinner thinking that kids needed to keep their electrolyte levels up—we reorganized into kids vs adults. Not everyone played, but it was still a good-sized game, and fiercely fought. There were home runs, aggressive—not to say foolhardy—base-running and a triple play that was called back because of a general lack of understanding of the rules of "tagging up". I had to bow out before the end to start to get supper ready, but not before I hit a towering home run into the woods over the shed. Very satisfying! Still, the adult side ended up losing something like 24-12. Those kids were just too good.

For supper we had hamburgers and hot dogs on the fire (plus garden asparagus), along with salad, veggies, and lots and lots of chips (electrolytes!). Adults ate under a tent that Leah bought in the morning, thinking we'd die otherwise under the baking sun. It's the best thing ever, and even though the day cooled slightly as the party got going it was delightful to be gathered under its shade.

As the party entered its fourth hour the kids abandoned organize sports for a more typical game of battling and domination—and, apparently, courtroom trials? I'm not quite sure. The adults were having civilized conversation elsewhere. There was also some bike riding and rollerblading, and Zion built some of his new legos (most of his presents from his friends were legos, which is good because he didn't get any from his family; only sports equipment). The party started at three, and I think everyone was gone by 7:30, but I'm not sure... it was kind of hazy by that point. A good party!

kids and adults around the table under the tent as Zion waits to blow out his candles

pure delight


parties upon parties

Zion's best friend is just ten days younger than him, so after they enjoyed some time together at Zion's party on Saturday they got to do it again on Sunday to celebrate the other birthday. It was a totally different feel from our backyard extravaganza, though, because his friend wanted to spend an afternoon at Kimball Farm in Westford. Originally an ice cream store, Kimball Farm has transformed over the years into a veritable theme park, with animals, mini-golf and a driving range, batting cages, bumper boats, zipline... Delightful, but unlike whiffleball at home not cheap. So Zion was one of only two guests, and he and the other boys had an amazing time with a pass that let them do three activities each (they picked nine holes of mini golf, bumper boats, and the zipline. Plus ice cream of course!

Of course, that left some disappointed siblings. Elijah, for example. Luckily he's good friends with Zion's friend's sister (that's what happens with homeschoolers) so, not satisfied with planning their own trip to Kimball Farm sometime this summer, they also requested a special outing of their own for that afternoon. I was glad to oblige, and after lunch together at our house the three of us spent a happy couple hours touring in Lexington Center: we stopped by the Visitors Center, climbed the Belfry hill and explored the rocks (the kids requested I not take a picture of them inside the Belfry's protective wrought iron fence, to make sure they couldn't get in trouble), and played on a playground. Then we came home in time for them to watch a movie and eat popcorn. It's no birthday extravaganza, but still a pretty good Sunday afternoon!


weather forecast

We're all kind of holding our breath looking ahead to this weekend: the forecast says that Saturday and Sunday will be close to 100°F. We don't feel ready for that! Temperatures in the high 80s last weekend left us practically prostrated. And it's actually kind of hard to believe it'll be that hot: today was cloudy and chilly. Well, we will see. And I bet we'll be able to find ways to stay cool!

kids boating and swimming in a pond

ABB: always be boating

history schooling

Doing this Park Day thing has gotten us more plugged into the homeschooling community than we have tended to be otherwise, so we're able to learn about some opportunities that otherwise we'd never be aware of. Like a field trip to the Garrison House historical site in Chelmsford. I'd never heard of the place: spending as much time as we do in Lexington and Concord we have no need of additional historical houses. But when we were invited I saw no reason not to go. Doing things is better than not doing them! And what do you know, we learned some things.

kids and adults standing watching an instructor in colonial dress

direct instruction

Not that the visit was a complete success. The Garrison House is where all the Chelmsford elementary school kids go once in their social studies career, and it's also open to 4th grade groups from other towns. So the experience was pretty schooly, which put our kids off. The first part of the program was an hour in the craft building, where they got to churn butter, make soap, dip candles, and sew quilt squares. Which sounds awesome! But liability issues meant that they could only do a little bit of each project under careful direction, and the number of kids there ensured that there was a lot of waiting around between turns. Standing up. Plus with all the history we do anyways no one in our family was surprised to hear that, in the olden days, people couldn't go to the store and just buy what they needed. Like, duh.

The second hour, a tour of the Garrison House itself, was better. The house was continuously occupied from 1690 to 1954 before becoming a museum, and its different rooms show what it was like in the 1690s, 1750s, 1870s, and 1900s. Pretty cool! We don't have anything like that in Lexington. I could write lots about that, but the boys already did. Here's what Zion learned:

Yesterday we went to the garrison house. The garrison house was made in 1690 and a half and people lived in it til 1954. It was made as a garrison a fort. In 1690 to 1750 the house only had like 1 room and that 1 room was the kitchen the dining room the living room and the bedroom. Later in the 1700 they had better technology like beehive ovens and a crane. AND they had bricks for their fire places. Then in the late 1800s they got facterey rugs and curtains they also had time for a piano. Then in the 1900 sumbody put a wood stove in then changed it to kerosene. They also had a ice box and a pump. Later it became a mousem.

Then after the program we got to picnic and play on the grounds. That was the best part. And the benefit of doing big schooly things is that you can meet some new friends!

lots of kids up in a tree

mine are up there somewhere...


moments from the week

a ladyslipper, with Harvey and Lijah walking on the path beyond it

walking in May

Moments from the past week.

Elijah and a friend running in the distance on the Belfry hill in Lexington

belfry hill

Harvey and Elijah sitting on the grass with the chicks

chick outing

Elijah using lying down Blue as a desk

fuzzy desk

Elijah on rollerblades at the skate park

wheelie feet!

Zion and a friend lying in shallow water at a pond

splash with friends

kids in a big plastic boat thing at a playground

new playground fun

the boys and a friend on the beach in the fog

perfect beach weather


weekend beach day

On Saturday it was supposed to be hot. What to do? Head to the ocean! Of course, when it was still in the 60s and drizzling rain at our departure time I felt a little silly, especially since I had persuaded some friends to join us on our expedition to Rockport. We briefly thought about just staying home, but I really hate giving up on a plan... Plus even if the weather wasn't perfect, we didn't have anything better to do. It was a good call, because the beach is always magical.

the boys walking towards the ocean on the misty beach

especially magical-looking in the mist!

The big beach wasn't actually our original intention—the thought was we could walk around the center of Rockport, climb on the rocks and the breakwater, maybe go in the water at Front Beach. But when I noticed a sign saying that beach sticker parking doesn't start until the 28th I thought we might give Good Harbor a try. Even though there were lots of people taking advantage of the last free parking weekend, there was still plenty of room in the giant lot. Plenty of room on the giant beach, too: the tide was lower than I've ever seen it, so even though there were hundreds of college kids (so many bikinis and lacrosse sticks!) we had plenty of room for photos that made it look like we had the place to ourselves.

Low tide also revealed a path to the island a little ways off the beach, which we'd never been to before. So while we waited for our friends to arrive we headed over to check it out. It was a fun climb up (though a little hard to avoid the poison ivy and 19-year-olds), and with the sun peaking through the clouds we warmed right up.

Zion and Elijah posing on top of a rock on the island

not pictured: 87 other people exploring the island too

Feeling warm meant that, on their way back to the car to meet our friends, the two younger boys let themselves be caught by the waves and got wet up to their middles. Which would have been fine, except at the car they were also going to change into their swimsuits. They didn't think it was a problem that they had soaked their only non-swimsuit clothes, but I wasn't thrilled.

Oh well. In actual swimsuits they took to the water again, first in the tidal stream that runs along one side of the beach. Some of it was shallow enough to wade across, but there were plenty of spots deep enough to swim in... or even to jump in! It's a pretty good beach where you can do cannonballs from the sand.

kids jumping into a stream on the beach

into surprisingly deep water

When they had their fill of that we moved to the waves. While the stream was cold, the actual ocean was positively frigid. Still, there were waves to play in, and that makes any level of chill bearable.

kids thigh-deep in the waves, Harvey raising his arms in triumph

braving the tumult

When I couldn't ignore Lijah's uncontrollable shivering any longer we went back to our blanket for lunch. Beach lunches sure know how to put the "sand" in "sandwich"! After we ate the boys wanted to go back in the ocean, but as we walked over a quarter mile of low tide beach through the fog it got colder and colder, and by the time we were able to put our toes in the water everybody was just about ready for dry clothes and a change of venue. Did I mention it was foggy? In patches, at least, and it was super fun watching them drift in from the water.

Elijah's friend walking on the misty beach

exploring in the mist

So yes, dry clothes. Oh wait, remember that my two younger children no longer had any such thing?! Poor Elijah in his hypothermic state was especially frustrated at his two-hours-ago self (or he should have been: he mostly acted angry at me). Happily his friends, more prepared than he, were able to furnish him with some of their spare clothes. Never mind that the shorts were a size too small and the shirt a size too big, and that both were from the girls' collection, he was glad to have dry cotton on his skin. And with him happy enough, we were able to head into downtown Rockport.

Harvey, Zion, and a friend walking on Bearskin Neck

where the action is

We spent a happy hour looking into shops, whining about things we wished we could buy, and climbing on the rocks of the breakwater. The boys found that, out towards the end, there are gaps between the rocks that make some pretty cool caves. They managed to travel maybe 20 feet "underground"!

Zion peeking out from a cave between rocks of the breakwater

how much to those rocks weigh?

Alas, by that point it was time to leave. Two of the children with us were only borrowed, and their parents were probably starting to miss them. Of course, we couldn't leave Rockport without buying some candy! Tootsie Pops and gummi worms we maybe could have found anywhere, but edible beach rocks were the perfect tourist purchase. And all the sugar fueled the long trek back to the cars. On the way I had to pause and snap a photo of Elijah, looking like a model in his borrowed clothes.

Elijah posing against a brick wall

world-weary at 8

What a beautiful outing! It would have been even better if accidents on the highway hadn't made the drive home twice as long as the trip out, but never mind, that's why we have the audio book.


chicks in the world

Chicks grow fast. The boys take turns caring for them, week by week: whosever rotation it is has to refill their feeder at least twice a day. It doesn't help that, despite having all that food delivered up to them in a container designed for the purpose, they just can't resist practicing their natural behavior of scratching violently at the ground with their feet. So they scatter their food everywhere, and fill their feeder with with shavings. For sure, they're growing birds and they need their exercise, and their brooder is very small. So now that they have some proper feathers and we're confident they can regulate their temperature, we're giving them some time outside.

partially fledged chicks among sun-dappled weeds

hard to photograph them, they move so fast

I do feel a little bad for them not having moms to take care of them and show them the ways of the world. If they did, they'd be able to enjoy the outdoors way longer and way earlier. But even without it's amazing to see how naturally they take to the outside world, where all that scratching makes sense! A much bigger variety of things to peck, taste, and fight over! And most importantly, room to stretch their wings! Before too long they'll be living out their permanently. I wonder how the old hens will take to them?


Backyard Farm Club

This past Monday we started a new thing: Backyard Farm Club. Well, not just us; there are five families interested in getting together from time to time to share experiences of trying to do something different in our suburban yards. And also put our kids to work! That's what it's all about for me.

Zion, Elijah, and some friends removing grass with spade forks

whips not pictured

The idea germinated at Park Day when a couple of us were talking about our mixed feelings about the 4H clubs we're part of. There's definitely things we enjoy and appreciate about 4H, but it's not all that we expected. So one parent wondered about creating a homeschool-oriented club, which reminded another parent and I that we'd been talking before the pandemic about collaborating to share work in our gardens. Maybe those two ideas could go together?

For now, we're not worrying about the 4H part. We're going to try things out and see if we can figure out a schedule and a routine that works. Then maybe in September we can get more official. So far, our idea is to rotate between houses and at each gathering have a selection of chores and projects that the kids (and the parents!) can take part in. For our first meeting at our friends' house, we cleaned out the chicken coop, weeded the garden, fixed some broken fencing, and pulled out grass from a piece of ground that is transitioning from lawn to food forest. Or, some people did. I was on grass removal duty the whole time. There was also a nature drawing scavenger hunt. At the end we had snack: we brought cookies and rice-crispie treats and someone else had some delicious egg tart things, but the best of all was the "apple nachos" made right on the premises. Not all the kids loved being made to do things, rather than just playing with their friends, but hopefully the snacks will keep them coming back.

apple slices covered with melted chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate chips

this is what apple nachos is

And hopefully we can host the next meeting. There's a lot of work that needs to get done around here!


playing ball

For his birthday Zion got a street hockey goal. A week or two ago Elijah was bored and in an effort to get him moving I offered to play handball with him—meaning we could take turns trying to throw a dodgeball past each other into the goal. It was actually super fun, and before long Zion was drawn into the action. I vaguely remembered the game of "team handball" from middle school gym, so we mostly just made up rules, but it seemed to work fine. This we finally had the chance to play a full game, with our school friends, and it was fantastic. We played for about an hour—kids, and the three adults too—and got a great workout while also figuring out tricks and strategies for the game. And I'm proud to say that Harvey and Zion were the only kids able to stick it out for the entire time! (Elijah was there for a lot of it too... he and a few other kids just needed a few timeouts elsewhere.) The rules we came up with are pretty similar to the rules of the real game, only we didn't allow dribbling (nor would the ball we were using even be able to bounce on grass). And we played a half-court version, because we only had one goal and to keep break-aways from getting out of hand. It was a hit, and the boys are excited to play again soon. After we recover from today's game, that is!

moments from the week

Elijah and Zion drawing the chicks in their outside pen

chick school

Moments from the past week.

the dogs walking into early-morning sunshine

out early with the dogs

Elijah high in the air jumping into the inflatable pool

pool season opens

kids swimming at Park Day

pond too

the boys, with their bikes, looking at a pond in the woods

exploring in Lexington woods

Elijah posing standing on a high fallen tree

posing up a tree


Lexington remains undiscovered

On Thursday on my way to pick up the boys in Lexington (and ride in the woods there) I noticed a sign advertising Discovery Day on Saturday. A street fair seemed like just the thing for a Saturday outing, so come 10:00 Saturday morning we got out the bikes, packed up lots of water—but no food, since for sure there would be lots of treats to buy!—and headed up the bike path. We also brought raincoats, since there was a chance of thunderstorms later in the afternoon and we didn't know how long we'd be out, but the weather was beautiful as we rode on our outward leg. Cloudy, mild enough that the humidity wasn't oppressive, and a little falling mist but nothing to make us any wet. So imagine our surprise when we reached Lexington Center only to find a sign—handwritten, taped to the signboard but mostly falling off—telling the world that Discovery Day had been cancelled due to weather.

What weather?! We were some disappointed, I can tell you. Happily Lexington Center is a diverting place even in the absence of a street fair, and a visit to the library—where we haven't been for years, it seems like—and the visitor center kept things feeling entertaining. Of couse, we also needed to find food! We ended up going to Via Lago for a takeout meal that was quite a bit more expensive than what we would have bought at the fair, but probably a whole lot better too. And then we climbed some trees and played cornhole on the court thingy they had set up there.

the boys eating at a picnic table outside the Lexington visitor center

classy picnic

Oh, and there was also a fairy house and garden tour advertised on signs all over the place, which we mostly ignored until we stumbled upon a little fairy village tucked under some trees on the edge of the lawn by Buckman Tavern. It would have been even better if there were more moveable parts for the boys to play with, but even as it was it felt like a pretty good discovery.

Elijah sitting above a fairy house town



this is summer

Yesterday was hot and sunny, as you'd hope and expect Memorial Day would be. So hot in fact that had a few moments of wondering how we'd survive and occupy ourselves all day! In the end, though, it was no problem at all. Harvey and I took our bikes out in the morning before it got really warm, and the closed-up house stayed cool through mid afternoon so we were comfortable lying around reading and playing card games for a couple hours. But the real star of the day was the new pool!

the boys in the pool on the deck

cool kids

Leah got it on sale because she was nervous that last year's might not have survived the winter, and that was wise: after one delightful day it seems to have developed a slow leak and is out of commission for the moment. The new one might not be quite as big, but it's deeper, and there was plenty of room for all three boys to enjoy almost four hours of swimming and playing in it after lunch.

And then we finished the day with a proper Memorial Day cookout—best burgers I ever made! We had hoped to share our supper with friends, and were a little sad that didn't work out. But really, we had a pretty great day together as a family so I can't really complain. It's going to be a good summer!

my plate with a hamburger and hot dog and cole slaw