Monday, March 30, 2009

Seed Starting

Over the past month I have taken over the workbench in the corner of our basement for my seed starting project. Here you can see my little setup: down below are newly planted seeds, covered and on a heating pad to keep them toasty warm. Up above are the sprouted seedlings and some newly planted seeds that require light to germinate.

In years past, I only had a few containers with a couple tomatoes and some basil. This year I am planning an actual vegetable garden and a small herb garden. So far, I have started Purple Opal Basil, Lemon Basil, Genovese Basil, German Chamomile, Greek Oregano, Lavender, Calendula, Mint, Parsley, Echinacea, Red of Florence Onions, Alexandria Alpine Strawberry, Yellow Alpine Strawberry, Fresca Strawberry, Little Gem Lettuce, and Swiss Chard. In the coming weeks I will be starting a few varieties of tomatoes, more lettuce and ornamental flowers. The rest will be sown directly into the garden.

I realize that it would have been easier (and perhaps more logical) to buy some of the more slow growing varieties as already-started plants, but I really have a hard time paying for something that I can do myself. Plus, isn't a big part of gardening about the process? This may be a little difficult for me because I can be a bit impatient and like to see immediate results. However, it is interesting to see all the various sizes and shapes of seeds and seedlings. If I would have gone out and purchased plants I would never have known that some seeds, like oregano are the size of a grain of sand, while others, like calendula, don't look like seeds at all, but petrified spiny worm-like creatures.

Several times a day I venture downstairs and scan the little peat pots, looking for new growth. It makes me practically giddy to see those tiny little sprouts pushing their way up through the dirt. Even if I have to wait a year or two for some of the plants to flower, I think it will be more satisfying in the end. Or maybe more frustrating. I guess I will find out.
-Jen

P.S. Did I mention that the actual gardens are not even built yet?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Welcome, Spring!

Happy Spring! What better way to celebrate the beginning of spring than with a visit to a local sheep farm to see all the newborn lambs! Everywhere we turned there were sweet little lamb faces...
It has been a busy couple of weeks for A-Z Farm, with a total of 167 births as of Sunday morning.

The ewes and lambs were separated into groups based on the lamb's age. Lambs less than a week old were in small private enclosures with their mothers where they nursed and sunbathed in the warm spring sun.

Lambs older than a week were in groups of 2-4 ewes and their lambs. They were fairly independent; prancing around, climbing of bales of hay, and snuggling in groups.

This mama must have been lamb-sitting for another mama. These were definately not all her babies!

Noah got to touch a little lamb. I don't know if he realized it was a real live animal. He thought that by squeezing its ear, he could make it bleat.

In another area of the barn we saw calves, ducks, turkeys, chicks and piglets. Curious Noah stuck his finger up a pig's nose. Yes, really.

Finally, we were lucky enough to see the birth of a lamb. Well, almost. Just as we saw the little nose coming out, another sheep walked by and stood right in our way. It was as if she were giving her friend some privacy. Moments later, when she stepped away, there lay a tiny, wet lamb in the straw. The little girl joined her brother, born just minutes earlier in their private pen in the middle of the flock. Here she is being cleaned off by her mother as her brother is greeted by a fellow pasture-mate.

We watched for a while as he struggled to stand for the first time with an encouraging nudge from his Mama. I was happy to see that although the barn's staff were nearby to help the ewes if needed, they pretty much stayed out of the way and let the new Mamas take care of her new lambs by herself.
A brand new life, taking his first wobbly steps! What a fabulous way to welcome Spring!
-Jen

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Handwork

I often call toys that are handmade by parents "lovies," because they are so filled with the tremendous love we carry for our child. The toy is filled with your soul and offered hand to hand, heart to heart.
-Sharifa Oppenheimer in Heaven on Earth.

Often, while Noah plays, I try to do some kind of handwork nearby. This allows me to nurture my creative side while at the same time allowing him to play independently, free from an adult's sometimes limited imagination. Yet, I am still close-by so he can check-in as needed to show me something or get a quick snuggle. On a good day (barring a restless night's sleep or teething pains) he will play contentedly on his own for up to an hour while we sing or listen to music and I do handwork.

I soon discovered that this is not the time for projects that require huge amounts of concentration, such as the fancy cabled socks with the complicated chart to follow. It is a good time for polishing some of Noah's wooden toys with beeswax polish. Last week, I finally put the finish on the train that Grandpa Ted made Noah for Christmas. This train (well...the engine at least) has been making many laps around the living room and kitchen lately.

I have also been working on some knitted animals from Toymaking With Children. The patterns are simple enough that I can put down the knitting and pick it up again whenever I need to without worrying about loosing track of where I am. There is also something special about making handmade toys while the receiving child plays nearby.

Over the past several weeks, there have been many additions to the farmyard.
A rooster and hen.
A cat for Grandma.
A donkey, pig, and sheep.
I am currently working on one very special crocheted project that will be revealed soon. Can you guess what it is?

-Jen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dizzy Dancer

Noah is becoming quite the dancer and will drop what he is doing to dance to his favorite songs. He loves almost every song by Coldplay and anything with a good beat, just like his Daddy. Here he is dancing and spinning. As you will see, he sometimes gets a little carried away with the spinning. I hesitated in posting this because it makes me seem like an insensitive Mama, but he really was ok...

video

Monday, March 9, 2009

Enchanted Forest Bedroom

Little by little we have been working on making Noah's room a more fun, relaxing and beautiful place to be. In doing so, his room began to take on an enchanted forest theme. When he turned a year old, I got this growth chart featuring a big tree and all the little creatures that live in and around it. It is so pretty it doubles as art.
Above his dresser hang three fairytale postcard prints; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Star Money, and Little Red Riding Hood, all in frames made by Grandpa Ted. Below the prints is our nativity stable, now the home of Little Red's Grandmother and several knitted barnyard animals.

Next to Grandmother's house is a framed watercolor I did of the night sky with Noah's bedtime verse written on it. Behind the watercolor is a plant that is taking on the appearance of a small tree. This slow growing plant (I think it is some kind of bonsai) is virtually indestructible. Over the years, it has often been greatly neglected, going weeks without water and living in rooms with no sunlight. Yet it continues to grow. This past summer I re-potted it and covered the soil with green moss. Then, while on a walk, Noah and I found a little stone just the perfect size for this mini-forest landscape. It looked like the perfect spot for a forest gnome to sit and rest. Months went by, and still no gnome. Well, last night I finally got around to making one. He turned out a little bigger than I had imagined, but he seems comfortable on his mini-forest perch.

Finally, the biggest part of Noah's bedroom makeover happened this weekend. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time, but Curtis was hard to convince. Actually, I am not sure I ever really succeeded in convincing him. I made an executive decision and just decided we would do it. A little over a month ago we gave it a try, but due to a bad mis-measuring incident, the project was put on hold for a while. Then, Saturday night, while Noah slept in our bedroom, we got to work. Many hours, the 'Mellow' playlist blasting from the speakers, and a box of Lemonade Girl Scout cookies later...

An enchanted forest mural! It is far from perfect, but from a distance I think it looks very nice. This was not a fun project, let me tell you. Despite measuring several times before cutting, the dimensions were still off by an inch on each side: too wide side to side, and too short on the bottom. How did that happen?! It turns out the ceiling is not exactly straight and the paper expanded unequally as we applied the paste and made crazy bubbles. Lets just say that the majority of our conversation during the 4 hours it took to put it up revolved around how much we would have paid to have someone else do it ($300 for me, Curtis was less at $100 - I think he is crazy!) But it was worth it in the end, and Noah's room was transformed into an enchanted forest!

I have more ideas for fun little projects to add to Noah's forest bedroom, but I think I need a little break after this project.

-Jen

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Sweetest Thing

This morning I had what was quite possibly my sweetest moment as a mama so far. I was in the kitchen mixing and measuring out ingredients for a batch of bread while Noah was busy emptying the utensil drawer as usual. Suddenly, one of Noah's favorite songs (Say by John Mayer) came on and he carefully set down the handful of wooden spoons he had been unloading from the drawer, forced his little body between me and the cupboards, held up his arms to me and said, "Da?"
"Dance?" I asked.
"Da!" was the reply.
He grinned as I swooped him up and then laid his head on my shoulder as I swirled, bounced and danced him around the living room. I think my heart just about melted.

After our dance, I finished kneading the dough and we went out for a walk while it rose. We are lucky to be just a short walk from several parks, and when the weather is decent we visit one of them as least once a day. Thanks to the warm weather the past few days, most of the snow is now gone and today was the first day that Noah actually got to wander around the park on his own two feet. Though he is close to being able to run when indoors, he is still a bit cautious on uneven turf.

What would a trip to the park be without a ride on the swings?

In the same swing 10 months ago...


Oh my, our little boy is growing so fast! I forsee a lot of fun times this summer!

-Jen

Monday, March 2, 2009

This and That

I have been feeling a bit guilty for not writing lately, but it seems to be a slow time of year in much of blog-land. There is not a whole lot going on around here except normal day to day stuff, which is pretty nice in its own special way.

I have been busy reading everything I can about starting seeds indoors and planning gardens. I planted the first seeds this past week and am seeing a few little seedlings poking their way up. I have mixed feelings about sharing my seed starting ambitions with the whole world, because I have never done this before and really hope it is not all a big flop. I will share some pictures of my setup soon. Hopefully it will be pictures of happy little seedlings and not just a bunch of scrawny little sprouts. Or worse yet, peat pots with lovely brown dirt and nothing else. We shall see. Planting time still seems a long way off when the temperatures are still in the single digits.

Noah has been a hoot lately. At home, he is always on the move, picking up new gestures and words almost daily. A few weeks ago he started saying "whazat?" or "whozat?" whenever he sees or hears something new. Very cute! Yesterday as we were out running errands, I sat in the back seat with him and we had quite the conversation. I discovered that he knows several words and signs that I did not know about, as he is too busy when we are at home to just 'chat.' I was almost sad when we got back home because our conversation had to end. I will have to spend more time riding in the back seat with him in the future.

Of all the words Noah is picking up, mama has not been one of them. He says daddy, baby, chez (cheese), bobo (the rabbit...don't know why), but not mama. My theory is that since we spend so much time together, he thinks of me as an extension of himself, and therefore does not need a name for me. Maybe its a bunch of hooey, but it makes me feel just a little bit better when even the rabbit has a name.

Those are just a few of the little things going on around here. Just normal, everyday stuff. All lovely in their quiet little way.
-Jen