Halloween report

In a lot of ways, Halloween yesterday was pretty relaxed. The boys all took responsibility for their own costumes and all we had to do was order requested parts (Leah's job) and help Elijah realize his vision for a sword with a handle made out of a bone (my job). They made their own jack-o-lanterns too, while I was on a work meeting. But there was a lot of partying we had to do, and lots of treats to digest! Unlike most years, we didn't invite folks to trick-or-treat with us and party afterwards; we accepted an invitation to a wonderful trick-or-treating neighborhood in Chelmsford. And also with other friends on the other side of Bedford. So there was a little bit of stress getting both of those in, especially since we didn't get back from the Halloween party at Backyard Farm Club in Lowell until after 4:30! Good thing we didn't need much supper, so the caroler and a couple of ninjas were ready to head out before it got dark.

the boys in front of the house in their costumes

quick, pose for a second before it's too dark

The Farm Club party was probably my favorite part of the day. All the more so for being unexpected: I thought we were just going to do get in there with some garden clean-up, but besides that we were treated to an amazing Halloween party complete with pigs in blankets and ants on logs and, most important, doughnuts on strings so we could race to see who could eat them fastest! I didn't win.

Zion and Elijah trying to eat donuts hanging from strings

harder than it looks

Then of course there was lots of candy to gather from a few doors in Bedford and lots more in Chelmsford. It was fun seeing the Bedford crew for a minute but we really enjoyed getting to visit a destination trick-or-treating location in Chelmsford. Lots of the homeowners were out in front of their houses with their candy—combined with all the families out in the streets it felt like a real festival. All our kids got more candy than they needed for sure. Halloween isn't my favorite holiday, but as far as it goes this one was pretty good!

the boys at a door trick-or-treating

I guess the dark is part of the appeal


the garden in early November

the garden on November 2, mostly bare beds

fewer plants, more dirt

We had a freeze—a few freezes—so the garden looks very different from last month! Tomatoes, peppers, beans, zinnias... all gone. Before the freeze the boys pulled the last carrots, and I brought in a couple more butternut squashes. But not everything is done: kale and other random greens are still going great, and the late second crop of peas is just starting to flower... we may even get to eat a handful, something I had no expectation of when I planted them. And the raspberries are giving us their fall crop: just a couple dozen berries, but extra delicious!

kale edged with ice in the garden

the kale at least doesn't mind the ice!

Now it's also time to start working for next year. We planted the garlic this morning, and soon the empty beds will be tucked in for the winter with a nice blanket of leaf mulch or straw. A couple weeks ago we made a new bed for strawberries. And of course all the dead plants, weeds, and old mulch is going into the compost pile, which is getting pretty big!

Will there be anything happening in the garden in December?


Chekov's excavator

On Halloween night, in the dark, a truck dropped off an excavator next door. Our neighbor on that side, who we'd loved living next too ever since we moved in here in 2005, moved out in July after selling to a developer, so we've been waiting with some trepidation to see what... develops. Well, now we're even more on edge because there's this multi-ton machine just outside our dining room windows looking primed to do some smashing. When is it going to swing into action? We have no idea!

1,000 hour day

This year we vowed to spend 1,000 hours outside. Well, I vowed and made the kids go along, but they're good with it. Halfway through the year we were still under the 2.75 hour/day ratio we needed for a thousand, but I wasn't worried: I knew there was a lot of summer days to come. And that was a good call, because today, with almost two full months to spare, we reached our goal!

Looking at the spreadsheet at the beginning of the week most of us predicted that we'd hit the 1,000 hour mark on Saturday, and we contemplated what sort of celebratory outing we should plan for the momentous hour. As it happened, though, today was so nice that we were out in the yard for over four hours even before we headed to our friends' house this evening to sit around their fire; we finished our thousandth hour at around 7:30. What will we do now? Not stay inside, that's for sure! I think we're going to keep pushing to see how many hours we can do... and set a mark to try and beat next year!

moments from the week

Harvey, Zion, and a friend sitting in our sandbox on a sunny day

this is school

A few moments from the past week.

food on a picnic table with hands reaching for it

halloween party food

Scout and Blue wading in the gray Concord River

the river is best in November

the boys opening garlic bulbs to plant, Scout stepping on the beds

garlic day


little outing, lots of fun

Yesterday I had to buy new strings for my guitar. I could have gotten them from Amazon, but there's an actual guitar store in Lexington that seems better, and it also sounded much more interesting to the boys. So we hopped in the car and headed that way, with a vague plan to take a walk somewhere afterwards and be home by lunch. As it happened the store didn't open until 11, so we had to walk first and, rather than driving to somewhere interesting, just walk from a little strip mall in East Lexington and see what we could find. We found some things!

the boys on an overlook beside the Arlington Reservoir

surprise water

We started off on the bike path heading towards Arlington, but quickly left it for a little path along Mill Brook. Before we knew it, we were on the shores of the mighty Arlington Reservoir. The boys have been there before, but not so recently that they remembered it—and none of us had ever seen it so full of wildfowl! Plenty of ducks and geese and, most impressively, over a dozen swans. There was also a new path through a wildlife planting area and then, when we reached the beach over on the other side, a new playground. And not a bad one either! After we waded a bit all four of us spent a happy half hour playing on the various bits of (mostly wooden!) equipment. So much so that it was closer to noon when we finally pulled ourselves away (and we could have stayed even longer if I hadn't been vaguely worried about having left the car in a store parking lot...).

It was a fun outing, just like the ones we used to do when the kids were younger and I didn't feel the need to make big adventurous plans. Harvey certainly felt that way too, and as we walked back to the car he was thinking that it was the sort of thing we could be doing more of. Sounds good to me!


a Tuesday at the bridge

I can't remember right now if we bike to the Old North Bridge other times of the year, but we certainly like to in November! That was our outing yesterday, and unlike last year all the boys came along. Leaving midmorning, we made our way down the highly-contested portion of the bike path in Bedford into Concord and reaching the bridge just in time for a chilly picnic lunch in the sun.

the boys eating lunch on the gravelly beach by the Old North Bridge

lunch and history

After lunch we left our bikes to walk across the bridge, try and climb the tree in the field, and play in the amazing overgrown evergreen garden down the hill from the (closed, we tried) visitor center. Last year the we played hide-and-seek there so of course the boys wanted to do it again; at first I was reluctant, but once we got going I had to admit it was a great idea. We played four rounds and we all had fantastic hiding spots each time—well, fantastic except for all the sharp pine needles that made their way into my underwear! Still seemed worth it. We only wondered why we didn't bring friends!

the boys in the limbs of a large evergreen bush

we could fit a lot more kids in this tree!


smashy smashy

Just hours after I wrote about the excavator last week it got down to work, smashing most of the house next door last Friday while we tried to have a homeschool gathering in our backyard (at least some of the kids got to watch the process through binoculars, a pretty homeschool thing to do...). The smashing wrapped up yesterday, after a few days off, and today the excavators (there are three now) just about finished loading most of the debris into giant dump trucks.

The process was pretty interesting to watch, and I had some nice conversations with some of the workers. But it's also been hard to be confronted daily with such terrible waste. I could have used lots of that wood! Those windows! Plus the dust that blows into our yard in clouds whenever the machines are smashing is fairly concerning. I'm not the only one to be troubled, either: all the workers I've talked to say they think it's crazy to be knocking down perfectly good houses. "Especially," one of the truck drivers told me, "when they're nicer than my house!" But I guess that's progress.

moments from the week

Harvey, Zion, and Leah on a little bridge over an old mill fall

new vistas in familiar woods

Moments from the past week.

Zion and Elijah wading in the Arlington Res

water benders

the kids throwing a pumpkin with a big trebuchet

smashing pumpkins

Zion and Elijah at the breakfast table with their fingers in each other's face

"I'm not touching you!"

Harvey carrying Elijah on his shoulders by the Old North Bridge

unreliable transportation

an excavator demolishing the garage next door

smashing buildings

Zion and Elijah painting with friends at a table in our yard

co-op painting


the depth of local geography and history

Sometimes we think about traveling the world, especially when looking at friends' pictures from Iceland. We will, someday. In the meantime though, there's still an infinity of places to explore around here. Case in point: on Saturday we were at Great Brook Farm State Park, where we've been hundreds of times, and found a new path that we'd never noticed before. It led us behind a broken down old log cabin (but not that old; the "logs" were only siding a couple inches deep) to a mill pond with little bridges to cross over its two spillways. Harvey was really the one to notice the path, so he has pride of place on the photo from yesterday. But we took other pictures too!

Elijah looking down at broken rusty machinery in an old mill race

how long since that sluice gate last worked?

Even though there wasn't much more to the path before we were back on trails we knew well, the tiny bit of it had plenty of entertainments: an old fireplace that looked just like a throne, a grove of numbered trees, and a big rock to climb.

Zion and Elijah atop a boulder in the woods

they are erratic climbers

Naturally we wondered about the cabin and the mill site, so back home I did a little research and discovered that the millpond is quite old indeed: it was the site of "Adam's saw, hoop, and grist mills" dating from 1730. The cabin, like we figured, is newer: it was built in the 1930s by Farnham W. Smith of Concord, who was charmed by the location by the old mill pond and thought it was just as good a camp as anything in New Hampshire. Over the next two decades Smith went on to buy 900 acres around the camp to make Great Brook Farm, where he and his family moved in 1954. Then they sold the property to the state of Massachusetts to establish the State Park in 1974.

Learning all of that makes me even more excited to go back to Great Brook and explore some more. Like, I can't believe I've never visited Wolf Rock! Even if we never leave Middlesex county, there's so much depth to the geography and history that we'll never run out of fun and wonder!

Zion and Leah posing on the outside of the railings of the road bridge over the stream

delight so close to home


working hard

Sometimes it's a challenge to do work. Work is hard! And so often there are other things to think about—tasks we should be doing instead, or just would rather be doing. Which is too bad, because not only is there a lot of work that needs to happen to keep life going, finishing a hard task is actually pretty rewarding! That's why Backyard Farm Club is the best, especially when there's a pile of woodchips involved.

Our friends had one—a big one. Woodchips are free if you know who to ask, but for free woodchips you get what you get, and this time our friends got enough that they didn't have that much driveway left. So for two consecutive Mondays we gathered a crew over there for some focused shoveling and hauling. And surprisingly, we just about got it done yesterday! All the kids—and the grown-ups—worked pretty hard, and though some of us are better able to focus than others with lots of friends around, I'm proud of all the kids and what they were able to accomplish. It turns out a pile in front of you is a pretty concrete objective. Even better, they said that doing the work was the best part of the day! Now lets see if we can summon that same level of energy for the woodchip pile in our driveway...

hair and strings

All three of our boys have pretty long hair now. Harvey started growing his out first, before the pandemic, and then the other two joined him a little while later. Elijah at least says he wants a ponytail, but really it's just that they don't want haircuts because they're not interested in their hair changing. Which, you know... But I can't really criticize, because I have something similar going on in how I never change my guitar strings. I'm used to how they sound, so I never think there's any problem with them! But the other day one broke, so I was forced into getting a whole new set; and guess what, the guitar now sounds much better!

Elijah reading

Elijah is having a harder time with reading than either of his brothers did. The way his brain works it's hard for him to make the words stay still on the page long enough to give up their secrets. But he's working on it. And it's been fun this week to see him taking on Dory Dory Black Sheep, one of the first books that Harvey read and enjoyed by himself. He was thinking that I might read some of the chapters to him, but as he got into it decided that it was good enough that he would push through himself so he would get credit for reading it all. And the best part is that he reads aloud, so I get to enjoy the story myself!

moments from the week

Elijah running in a november-colored field wearing bright clothes

not camouflaged

Moments from the past week.

the boys looking at ice on the horse trough

ice test spot

kids playing in the meeting room at the Chelmsford Library

park day indoors

kids eating lunch at a picnic table by the playground

and coop at the park


moments from the week

Zion jumping from the top of a very big pile of woodchips

instead of a playground

Moments from the past week.

the boys sitting on the floor at a dance studio watching a presentation

opera introductions

the boys shoveling wood chips in our driveway in the November morning sun

moving the woodchips before they freeze

the boys sitting on the floor playing Uno with their second cousins

playing with second cousins

Leah sitting on the couch with Harvey and Elijah, teaching them how to knit

knitting lessons