Amie visited my pottery class a couple of weeks ago, just for 10 minutes while DH picked up pizza down the road. We were glazing but I fired up a wheel for her and stuck on a blob of clay and centered it, adding lots of water. Then she put her little hands on the sloppy, turning clay and – wow! she could have stood there for hours, smiling, holding, feeling, turning with the wheel.

When it was time to leave she got hold of four chunks of throw-away and went to ask the teacher very sweetly if she could take it home. There must have been something forbidding in the situation – all those adults suddenly so intent on hearing what she wanted to say – because this is how she asked:

- Lisa, can I please take this clay home? Here [holding out one chunk] you can have this. And this one too [holding out another one], you can have this one too if you want?

Lisa accepted the gifts – quickly, before Amie offered her all of them – and everyone laughed benevolently. Amie was a bit flustered but happy with the chunks she got to keep. Oh, and I remembered those awkward social moments, and realized that this was a glimpse of the struggle she is heading for, quite fearlessly, as she exits that part of childhood when it’s just her and her closest family, and enters the world where things are asked and deserved and owed in certain, mysterious ways.

3642063632_79506dc3501 3642063904_cc54b4c559

I brought home the pots and plates I made. I was more adventurous with the clay this session, with the result that there were less pots to bring home (and give away), but more lessons learned. I took some pictures but in bad light conditions (it’s been so rainy here!).

dscf4280

dscf4292

I loved turning those plates, what a great tactile experience! And that glaze really put the birds up there in the sky (it’s a translucent white, the blue background was put on before firing as a pigmented slip over paper cutouts of the birds).

I’m so keen on a pottery wheel, but honestly we don’t have the space to put it or, with everything else that’s going on, the time to make it turn as often as it should. But we’ll be doing some handbuilding for sure.

We are seeing lots of new birds at our feeders this Spring: a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Catbird are making regular visits, and I’ve seen glimpses of an Oriole – bright flashes of yellow and black.  Perhaps someone advertised the Black Oil Sunflower seed I got for them at the Audubon shop?

And yesterday I was fiddling with my camera when:

dscf3957

Click!

Amie’s grandmother arrived to stay for 5 weeks. Amie brought a bouquet of buttercups to the airport and rode the escalators while waiting for Thamm to appear.

3605879274_fbab8f4b321

They settled into a regimen right away, part of which is “school”, “where Thamm pretends to be a teacher, and I pretend to be a student, and our house pretends to be the school”. They read and write and most of all engage in lots of crafts.

Here they are sketching each other – Thamm is attempting to sketch her every day:

3605067903_2f5b491e82

Here are the results:

3605888340_5fe94bcbf5

3605071131_9f31a7b014

Amie (to one of her dolls): “You know, my Thamm is good at arts and crafts. But she still needs to use an eraser… That’s because I can’t sit still.”

So true.

We have also been working on a dragon. After rescuing some boxes from the recycling bin, we wrapped them in newspaper and painted them – the newspaper takes the paint much better, and as a bonus it gives the wrinkly look of dragon skin! Gruesome teeth were added.

3605869230_e896144141 3605051881_8101c3d8fa

3605874238_d671c9344d 3605873542_1dbfe10446

Wait, he (she?) is not finished yet! More boxes and paint and glue to come…

Taking a break from our construction – we were setting tiles till 4 am – and gardening Amie, her grandmother and mself ran off to our favorite place in the US (aside from our own Robin Hill, of course): Drumlin Farm.

There were birds, wild (Eastern phoebe?) and tame:

3605086961_14cd54d6d5 3605090985_839d9a650b

And farm equipment (defunct):

3605094293_3509622e13

And strawberry picking – and eating:

3605099079_05ea8291a0 3605103323_61ae032a98

And, when we returned, the littlest Robins of Robin hill (not so little anymore):

3605104979_b7c44e0baf

{Update} They have left the nest…

  • Grosbeak

In the early morning I passed by the window without my glasses on and spotted something colorful at the bird feeder. Something very colorful and unfamiliar, though hazy. I rushed to get my glasses: it was a new bird, and I guessed that it was a Grosbeak. I got the camera and the bird obliged, visiting for another ten minutes.

dscf3770

When I sat down in the sofa with my bird book Amie immediately imitated me, getting her animal book, sitting down right next to me, and finding the animals she was spotting. It was incredibly sweet. Turns out it was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It’s a summer resident.

  • Eggs

A week ago I also found some eggs in the garden where a tree was cut down. One was broken, the other two intact, which I took inside and put into one of my bowls, thinking I might find a way of preserving them. Then I flat forgot about them, until today, when I found one broken (or rather, burst) open: it had a half developed little chick inside.

dscf3745

I threw them in the compost. Anyone know what birds these eggs belong to?

  • Robin Hill

You’d have thought the Robins would have chosen a different spot for their nest this Spring – no longer the rafters of our carport, where last year they had to fly off each time someone approached. They did choose a different spot… about a foot away from the old nest! It’s tough to photograph them – I don’t want to use a flash. Here’s a glimpse:

dscf3774

There were four little robins at first, and then there were only three. One fell out of the nest, it was lying dead on the pavement next to the car. I took pictures, of course – dead wild animals afford that rare close look – and then disposed of the body for some lucky fox or cat. It’s part of the great cycle of life, but how sad.

dscf3696

It’s not that I chose not to tell Amie, it just didn’t come up. She  climbed on the ladder to see the remaining three chicks and was wowed.

dscf3712

Next year, if they choose to grace us with their presence again, I want to install a live webcam.

I have been looking for a name for our tiny homestead. We’re on a hill and have lots of chipmunks, so I was thinking “Chipmunk Hill”, but in honor of our Robins we’ll call it Robin Hill – I like the Robin Hood connotation!

Someone asked me: What if you  would have to move now? This was with reference to the vegetable garden, to which I have devoted many, many hours of hard labor and a whole lot more of research, hopes and dreams. My answer was: It would be no problem. Really? You could leave all of this behind?

What would I be leaving behind? A half acre of land, some well-tended topsoil and some raised beds, and a fence. Possibly a season’s harvest.

What would I be taking with me? The knowledge of what vegetables, herbs and flowers are available for my region, where to buy them, how to sow them and tend to the seedlings, how to amend soils and dig beds, how to compost, how to space vegetables, plant companions, water them and wage war on bad bugs and weeds. What tools are needed (surprisingly few). Knowledge of the path of the sun in the seasons. Of the functions of the soil horizons. Of the fact that organic materials don’t “break down”, no: they are broken down, by fungi and bacteria and little critters. That chipmunks dig holes in the beds, deep ones. That it’s okay if a couple of bean seedlings are eaten  by an entity unknown: pull and reseed. That it’s good fun, “tucking in” seeds here and there. All that, and also a fitter body, more physical endurance, and above all a happier spirit for my entire family.

That’s what it means to be self-sustainable: to have skills and knowledge that can travel with me anywhere.

mamaingarden
Amie’s picture of Mama in the Garden (taken with her very own camera)