The juncos have arrived from up north.

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This morning we were all still in bed when there was a loud rap against our bedroom window pane. I jumped out of bed, knowing it was a bird that had just collided with the glass. I looked out and there, among the flock of juncos grazing in the grass, was a spread out, unmoving one.

I threw on my jacket and scarf and rushed outside with a kitchen towel. There is was, still not moving. Normally I’d leave it, watch it from a distance, but it was cold and a bird in shock like that would probably not recover, or get eaten by a cat or what have you. So I picked it up and wrapped it in the towel. It was only as I was bringing it into the house that it revived a little.

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We kept it warm for ten minutes, then it started squirming and got away from me, demonstrating its desire and ability to fly. I caught it and brought it outside to let it go. It flew off in a jiffy and we rejoiced.

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I dropped off the homeschool letter at the Superintendent’s office. They’ve been very supportive, and almost everything I asked for – if Amie can keep coming to school for out-of-hours and even in-hour classes, if she can keep using the online platforms for math and typing, etc. – they’ve given us. So now it was just the paper work.

I want to blog about homeschooling but perhaps not here. Or perhaps here, but then other content needs to move elsewhere. I’ve been having trouble, fitting it together: chickens eating yogurt, kid art, gardening and… despair work, criticism of culture, depressing poetry. You catch my drift. Maybe the heavy-duty stuff should leave and the chickens can stay along with the homeschooling…

A snapshot of the complexity and diversity of our lives: at the library I got
+ The Story of the World. History for the Classical Child
+ Michael Light’s Full Moon, about the moon.
+ Michael Light’s 100 Suns, 100 photos of nuclear bombs going off
+ and Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought
The librarians know us and they’ll get to know us even better come January.

Now I add these books to the stack of books that I own and am in the process of reading, on pioneers and anthropology of shamanism and Arctic Circle indigenous people and death and Beowulf and Mongol gers and… Sometimes you just have to let the waves crash over you and tread water for your life! Except when there’s a shark. Apparently, standing up in water you look like a dead fish. Best to swim or float horizontally, then they might leave you be.

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Here we’re weighing our heads with our new kitchen scale:

We decided – Amie, DH and I – to homeschool Amie for the coming semester and probably also fifth grade.

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We love the school she is going to at present. It’s a smallish (ca. 400 kids) neighborhood K-5 school where kindness really matters, where the teachers are deeply caring and the staff a charm. Amie loves her teacher and her classmates and she is well-liked in return.

But she has been bored and frustrated, as she waits, a lot, Not sitting and waiting, thank goodness, but repeating and repeatedly hearing material she already mastered. Her vocabulary, use of grammar and spelling are at above elementary level and she regularly aces (over-aces, with extra credits) math.

Because everything comes easy to her, her work ethic and work habits aren’t very good. She has no confidence and shuts down when she meets a challenge (something that is only exhibited at home, when she is challenged by cello). She makes a clear and tragic division between (school)work and play.

School has introduced her to topics in science and social studies that interest her a lot, but she was never able to investigate very deeply because so much attention in Fourth Grade goes to Math and Language Arts. She wants to work, but hasn’t had the opportunity to go in-depth on a topic and as a result is losing her intense curiosity.

Now, you might say, why don’t you give her the more stimulating project work after school? Why not enroll her in Kumon Math or what have you? But that won’t work for us or for our kid. She would feel that her time is even more disrespected if we kept her waiting for hours every day (and that kind of waiting is not, by the way, relaxing), then replaced her play time with extra work. On top of that, she’d be even more advanced, more bored in class, which would only exacerbate the problem.

On the topic of having one’s time respected, for a long while we were stumped about her frequent complaint that she doesn’t have enough time in her day. We’ve always guarded against too many extra-curricular activities, so much so that unfortunately sports/physical movement have fallen by the wayside. Still, even though she just has 1 cello lesson and 1 orchestra lesson a week, and even though she doesn’t get a lot of homework, she insists that she never has any time. Where was this coming from? We realized that she means that her time is not valued. This feeling (or rather, fact) of having her time wasted is always present to her and sabotages any attempt at in-depth projects.

At home we can give her individualized attention (something that is difficult in a big classroom) and she can go at her own pace. It is not the intent to accelerate her, but she needs to have more freedom. One of her math curricula, for instance, will be Khan Academy Grade Four. She has already been playing with it and was allowed to pick and chose her modules (addition, multiplication, fractions, etc.), so she is not tied to a linear progression but can skip around.

Also, we’ll free up waiting time for project-based work and for more physical activity to build her physical resilience.

We’re aware that she will be missing out on a certain type of social interaction (working on groups, waiting, taking turns), which at her school was unreservedly positive. We are looking into opportunities to keep her socially engaged – especially crucial because she is, after all, an only child. There are other homeschooling families we’ve already connected with, art classes at the local art museum (especially for homeschoolers), and group sports. Thanks to our wonderful school district, she’ll be able to still go into the school and see her friends at drop-into-art and chorus, and she’ll continue in her school’s strings orchestra.

All this is possible in our home setting (though I do wish we had a school room) and in my own life. As I excitedly tell friends about this amazing development I become more and more aware of the luxuries I enjoy of 1) being qualified and confident and 2) working from home and choosing my work and 3) a relationship with my child that makes this a natural fit. And though she will miss her friends, Amie is also looking forward to it.

We start in January and, as you can see, I’ve already started buying lots of books!

This is a cool tool. Put yourself on the north pole, or at, say, 74.8 degrees N latitude.

Is this nature study?

I’ve rediscovered Tim Morton’s books on ecology, among them Ecology without Nature and The Ecological Thought, where he introduces the concept of dark ecology as a means of expressing the “irony, ugliness, and horror” of ecology. Yes, that’s what we need, or what I need: to ditch the neutral theoretical ground on which to articulate ecological claims. Instead, all beings are always already implicated within the ecological, necessitating an acknowledgement of coexistential difference for coping with ecological catastrophe that, according to Morton, “has already occurred.”

With a friend I’m also working on a series of events and a documentary film about dying, death and burial. How can it be that death is a rumor? And I also suspect it is about endurance as well. “The Sovereignty and the Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed,” by Liz Waldner:

“Time” is a word. “Love” is a word.
Between them are words and between them

an entrance. I pray to be
entranced, starting right now again I do.

I am old enough to understand
being willing
to go on is a great gift.

The mead I made in September has cleared a lot. This is the bottle (front) in September:

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It’s much lighter now. Here’s the bottle next to the year-old, wholly clarified mead:

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The bottom is a moonscape of dead yeast people and quaintly coalesced beeswax. But something else in the yeasts must make them consume and break down the color. I need to learn more about this because a bottle of homemade mead is always an occasion for storytelling.

Not wanting to disturb the sediments, I used the thief to extract some and tasted it: just right, still enough sweetness left. I filled a couple of glasses and here’s to all of you: Happy Thanksgiving!
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A couple of days ago Amie and her friends ran inside in a panic: there’s blood, blood! I ran out with them and found a crazy chicken yard with screaming chickens and screaming children. Also a broad streak of blood on the roost. Imagine my relief when I found it was just one of the pullets who had broken off a toe nail. But so much blood! They say chickens bleed heavily, even if the wound is small, and now I know it’s true.

I pulled Jenny out of the coop and brought her inside. I washed and disinfected the toe, bandaged it, and gave her a night in the dog crate in our warm kitchen. In the morning she went straight back into the coop, though.

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The most interesting part was the kids’ reactions. They’re 9, 9 and 13. Amie was crying, her friends were intrigued, but when asked what they’d do if their pet was bleeding, they said they’d panic and then call the vet. I brought up scenarios of the vet not being open, the wound not being that serious, etc. I didn’t say they too should be prepared to stay calm and treat a wound, that they shouldn’t push all responsibilities onto a “specialist,” but become specialists themselves, but I sure did model it.

Okay, okay, I stole the title from my friend and fellow beek Kath – though her blog post title is “That’s a wrap” so technically it’s not the same.

Anyhoo. This is what we woke up to this morning:

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and

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and
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The photograph above I call “Terrestrial.”

…And so also

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I had been waiting for a colder day to wrap the hives. It’s a hassle and a hazard, driving staples into their boxes, hovering all around and getting real close to small openings with a pair of scissors, when the bees are flying. This morning, before the snow started melting away and the bees started exploring the newly warm temperatures, I went to perform the operation.

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I used tar paper all around, stapled to the boxes as strategic places, and on the north and west sides I added link insulation boards, held together by a strap. All together this took me half an hour.

This is all I can do for them now, except for check on the candy board and wood shavings once in a while.

Be well, bees!

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After a few warm days of observing the candy board supers on the hives, I started to suspect robbing in one (the one to the left). This one has Honey-Bee-Healthy in the candy, which might be the main tip-off to other bees that there are goodies to be had. The other hive, where I decided not to use the HBH, has much less bees hovering around it.

The main point of attack, if that is what it was, was the rather large hole I put into the super, right at the level of the candy, for ventilation and winter access. Luckily I kept the two blocks I had chiseled out of the super, and today I put those back into those holes.

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Ventilation and top access are not an issue yet, anyway. Also, the bees should be all set with the small hole in the entrance reducer at the bottom, since there is not much to forage, except for water – anywhere there is a puddle or some standing water in a bucket, the bees are there.

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Their castles should be eminently defensible now.