Laundry on the line, wood and compost, September 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

My mom is reliving her childhood sifting through the many woodpiles of predominantly rotted wood that the previous owner left. She’s moving the logs that still hold good BTUs to our good woodpile. We’re fast approaching three cords of wood: enough for a winter, only we don’t have a wood stove as yet, as this year’s budget can’t accommodate it. Neither do we have the money to get some sort of lawn/meadow started in that area. Next year: we’ve got time.

We’re drying laundry on the line and composting happily. In fact, we’ve got two of those Earth Machines and they’re nearly full, so my dad is making a larger compost area in a far corner of the property, made from the chain link fence we pulled out a while ago. Unfortunately I checked out the “compost” the landfill put aside for us and it’s full of trash! We’ll have to screen it ourselves and we’re not equipped for that, yet.

We also found the first dead animal on our property: a squirrel that was (very recently) bitten by what looks like a fox – the bite is too small for a dog, too large for a cat. Any other predators out there?

Dead squirrel (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Amie is going to preschool soon. She has been home with us for several months, ever since we moved, so it will be a big change for her (and me). I can’t say she is particularly enthusiastic, but neither is she apprehensive about it, I think. Part of the problem is that she has no clear concept of time: “in six days” means very little to the little girl who will whine “I haven’t seen Nemo all this year!”

So I decided to make a countdown calender.

Amie’s countdown calendar, September 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I made it out of a scrap cardboard frame, glued it to a sheet of card stock, then drew in the squares: a visit to the landfill (I know!), riding the bike, reading Library Lion (the new favorite book), and her favorite characters Nemo and Caillou, and of course her Oma and Opa’s arrival at the airport on the third, and her first day of school on the eighth, with friends and learning after that.

The initial idea was to let her open one door every evening and the picture would show the next day’s activity or event. It would teach time as well as bring a surprise every evening. But the moment I revealed it to her she wanted to open all the windows and got upset when I wouldn’t let her. So now I let her open any door she wants, and every evening we discuss the picture of the next day.

Amie’s countdown calendar, August/Sept 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

We also discuss the day that has passed, and on the back of the door I write whatever has happened that isn’t in the picture. This way, if we can keep these calendars going, we will have a record of our days.

Amie, Laura and i blow out candles, 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

This was Amie’s birthday, on the 18th. Amie was my own birthday present three years ago, so those were my candles as well. And one of our best friends, Tia Tata (which is what Amie calls her), was also born on the 18th, in the same year as me. Tia Tata was our roommate for a while before we moved out of town – unfortunately she couldn’t join us. So we all joined forces. For weeks Amie had practiced blowing out candles and looking very important while the birthday song was being sung, and this was the great moment. She enjoyed it thoroughly. In the evening she said: “All my big friends were here, and my little friends also came!”

Amie has always been interested in recognizing letters, and she has been able to write her name for many months, but it was more an exercise in memory than real writing. She can analyze the first and the last sounds in a word, but not the ones in between yet, unless it is an easy word like “Mama”. Yesterday we were drawing with chalk on our driveway when, she spontaneously wrote out “Mama”.

Amie writes “Mama”, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Then she asked to learn more letters. I taught her the easier ones: from E she can make L and F, for instance. The most difficult one was B,which she wanted because she wanted to write “Boo” (her favorite character from “Monsters, Inc.”). She turned B into a stick with two circles. Then I asked her to write “Moo” too, and she did:

Amie writes “Moo”, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

She also wanted to write “Pig”. P was easy after B, but the G was too difficult, so I shower her the small g. This was her first attempt:

Amie writes “B”, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Then the next attempt:

Amie writes “Pig”, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I know I’m not being consistent with the large and small case letters, and that really one should start children off on the small case ones. But that’s how writing develops in the organic (chaotic) context of our home. But she’ll be starting preschool on the eighth. She’ll be going to a Montessori school, so I’m relieved there will be some professional help with her new enthusiasm.

She also drew this:

Amie’s dead bunny rabbit, august 08 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Yes, it really is  a “dead bunny rabbit [oops, my misspelling], not a real one!”

This hummingbird had visited us a couple of times. Flying right up to the window to take a peek into the living room. Then DH came home with a hummingbird feeder and some “nectar” and we hung it. Within ten minutes the hummingbird came to feed.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (c) Katrien Vander Straeten, 2008

I believe it’s a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a female one (the ruby throat is reserved for the adult males). I hope she will bring her friends along! The are a miracle to behold: the smallest bird I’ve ever seen, a little big larger than a big moth, and such a nifty flyer!

I’ve been buying many quarts of blueberries at the Farmer’s Market. Half gets eaten and half gets frozen. I rinse them (they’re organic), dry them, then spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze them through. Then I pick ‘em up with a metal spatula and drop them in a freezer bag. Then I suck out what air I can with a straw and quickly seal it. Like so:

Frozen blueberries (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

My question to you is: how can I make these freezer bags more airtight? I find that after some days when I check them, air has sneaked back in. Should I tape them, or glue them somehow? Any ideas?

We are slowly gearing up to start work on the garden now. If only it stopped raining for long enough so that the ground isn’t so soggy… Oftentimes it looks like the Deluge around here. As DH said: the polar caps will be devoid of ice soon, and all that water needs to go somewhere! I barely make it out of that apocalyptic mood that I sometimes indulge in by invoking that haunting line of Josh Ritter’s: “And a river falls on another sea” (“Roll On”)… and the downpour somehow looks beautiful and serene.

Well, in any case, Amie has been doing a lot of art work. Her paternal grandmother has been staying with us for almost a month now, and she introduced a wonderful homemade dough that Amie goes for regularly throughout the day – she now opens the fridge and takes it out herself.

Amie loves to make Popsicles (a ball of dough on a tiny stick found outside) and now also trees. Here is a particularly colorful tree.

Amie’s dough tree, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

And the following is a birthday cake with candles:

Amie’s dough birthday cake, August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

She has also been drawing on her blackboard. This one she drew after seeing Mickey Mouse in a book:

Amie’s chalk drawing, august 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

And this now is a very special one that she made today, again without our knowledge. Her grandmother came into the playroom to see what she was doing and she asked her to go away! We discovered the drawing in the evening, after she had gone to sleep:

Amie’s chalk drawing, 6 August 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Isn’t that the cutest creature? I’ll ask her tomorrow who or what that is.

UPDATE: It’s the sun!