Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Pickin'

Last Saturday was a perfect fall day for a family activity that I have wanted to do for some time now: apple picking. From several local orchards we chose one that practices sustainable farming with little or no spraying. This is especially important when there are little ones picking and eating the fruit. After walking out to the orchards, we were a bit disappointed to find many of the varieties rather picked over, and were beginning to think we would go home with empty bags. Then, we found a few trees with apples way out of reach. With a little circus act involving me balancing on Curtis's shoulders, I would pick the apples and hand them to him one at a time, who in turn would hand them to Noah, whose job it was to put (I say put, but it was actually more like throw) them in our bags while Isaac sat nearby, pulling grass and sampling the leaves. Noah kept saying, "Izat apple pickin'?" Yes, Noah, that is apple picking family style!
After making some slow progress, I resorted to just climbing the trees and handing the apples down. Soon our bags were filling up. At one point, Noah, who has recently become very good about using the potty at home independently got his first lesson on going to the bathroom in the great outdoors, proudly announcing "I peed on a tree!"
Before long, our bags were full. We picked 44 lbs of apples! (I should probably leave out the part of the story where Curtis dropped a 22 lb bag of apples on the floor after paying for them. Imagine the gasps from the lady checking us out as well as about 20 other customers waiting in line."You were going to use those for baking, right?" she said.) Just a couple hours after getting them home, I pulled a bubbly apple cobbler out of the oven. The next day we learned how to can, and made 7 quarts of applesauce. We still have about 20 lbs left that are destined to become apple pie filling. I think we could possibly consider canning my newest obsession. It must be true what they say about children eating foods that they otherwise might not if they are able to participate in harvesting them. Before our apple picking excursion, Noah would not eat raw apples. But now, when asked what he would like for lunch, he proudly says, "apple pickin'!"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Falling Leaves

It is fall, and the beginning of a new journey for Noah and I. Yesterday was our first day in the Apple Blossom Playgroup at our local Waldorf school. While our home lives have been inspired by Waldorf philosophy from the day he was born, yesterday was the first time we had a chance to spend time with other families with similar lifestyles. It was a lovely morning beginning with the mamas working on a simple craft while the children played, followed by a shared snack and tea, circle time with fall-themed songs and finger-plays, and ending with free play outside in the garden. Isaac came along, of course, and sat contentedly on my lap through the crafting. He then tried to pull my place mat and tea onto the floor during snack time, and sat in the middle of the circle during our circle time as we "ring-around-the-rosied" around him. Did you know that you can do finger-plays with ones hand while holding a nursing baby with the other? Noah, who will play independently for hours at a time at home, was very shy and stayed close by my side through most of the morning. I am hoping that in the coming weeks he will become more comfortable as he plays and explores in the new environment.

To celebrate fall and this new beginning, I thought Noah deserved some special slippers to wear during our weekly playgroup. This pattern caught my eye some time ago. It has an unusual construction for a slipper, which are first knit as a long strip with two side flaps. It took quite a bit of planning to figure out where the different squares would end up on the final slippers so that I could make an actual left and right, and not just an identical pair. Thankfully, many people have made these before me and shared their helpful notes on Ravelry. After knitting the strips, they are then sewn together in an origami-ish way. At that point, the slippers were big enough to fit my size 10 feet. However, after 3 cycles in the washing machine, they felted beautifully and fit Noah with a little room for growth. This pattern is great for using up bits and pieces of yarn. I made Noah's using KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, leftover from his knitted fruit and vegetables. The reds, yellow and orange are reminders of the changing colors of the leaves that will soon be falling from the trees. Welcome, Fall!

Monday, September 20, 2010

September Garden

I try to do most of my gardening while Isaac is napping. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much napping happening around here lately. Isaac has had a lingering cold and is also teething. The only place he isn't fussing when out of our arms is when he is outside where he is distracted by the grass and the breeze. In the garden, he even sat nearby and let me harvest some of the last vegetables of the season. As long as he had some grass to pull and a cool carrot to soothe those swollen gums, he was content.
Our sunflowers are still standing, though they are bending greatly under the weight of the heavy heads as we wait for them to dry so we can harvest the seeds. I have given in to the rabbits, leaving the fence down for the last few weeks. Actually, it just never got put back up after the lawn was mowed. But I am more soft-hearted and willing to share than I was at the beginning of the season when they were chewing off everything as soon as it sprouted. They have a little nest in the strawberry patch, and I have now decided there is not much left that needs protection from them. They might as well enjoy those stray carrots tops and get nice and fat before winter. Our rabbit guests are color discriminate when it comes to the Swiss Chard, eating only the red and leaving us the yellow and white. I harvested the last of it, along with a few carrots for an Indian Curry dish. I am still contemplating whether or not to plant some lettuce and spinach for a fall crop, and thinking of what to do differently in the garden next year. More tomatoes, more beans, more chard. Fewer rabbits and beetles. I can dream, right?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Sheep Festival

Another belated post here...
I have this dream of someday having some sheep of my own, so that I might raise, shear, spin, and knit a hat or sweater from my own homegrown wool. Until then, I take every opportunity to live vicariously through the folks that are already doing just that. So last Sunday we packed up the boys and went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. This festival, just an hour drive away, was too good to pass up. Now, I expected to see lots of sheep, spinning, milking, herding, and shearing demonstrations, and maybe even some farm equipment...
What I didn't expect was two HUGE buildings filled from wall to wall with vendors selling yarn, roving, spinning wheels, and every other possible piece of knitting paraphernalia you could imagine. I know. What was I thinking?! A wool festival without wool for sale? Silly me! It was like icing on my sheep cake! My jaw dropped and my eyes just about popped out of my head when we stepped into that first building. The best part was that almost everything was from local sheep farmers and mills. This rainbow of yarn comes from a town just miles down the road from us.
There was so much to choose from, it was overwhelming. After meandering through the various vendors a couple times, the boys and Curtis trailing behind me, I ended up getting 4 skeins from family owned Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill in East Central Wisconsin. They have some really beautiful colorways. These skeins are going to become some new woolens for Noah. A big thanks to the boys for being troopers during the outing and to Curtis for going to a Sheep Festival on the same day as the Packer's first game of the season!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Buttons, Buttons, Everywhere!

This is my belated "Work in Progress" post from Wednesday, since I worked the past few days and have not had time to post it. It has been a very busy Labor Day week with over 120 babies being born so far this month! At home, the boys have been a bit under the weather this past week, which meant more snuggle time. Poor feverish Isaac actually fell asleep on my shoulder while I was rocking him. In the middle of the day. Without being swaddled. AND he stayed asleep when I laid him down. That has never happened in his entire little life!

Last weekend, before the sickness settled upon the house, I got the buttons sewn on Isaac's red jacket. The beautiful wooden buttons are from an Etsy store and came all the way from Lithuania. This jacket is still a work in progress, because I want to line it for extra warmth. The knitting is done though and it may get some wear before I take the next step and sew the lining in. Isaac's matching pilot cap is happy, snuggly, and cute...just like him.This past week I also put the finishing touches on a little cabled owl vest for Isaac. The pattern is called Milo, and it is a simple little pattern that comes in many sizes. I have plans to make more of these for both the boys. The rust colored yarn is Harrisville Highland wool that I had from way before Noah was born, and it was once a pair of longies. It is a bit coarse, and much better suited as a vest to be worn over another shirt. The little owl eyes are buttons from my Grandma's button stash. While doing all these button applications, I gave Noah the button container to play with. These buttons have provided many hours of play this week as he sorts them, dumps them, and 'cooks' with them in his kitchen. It is a wonderful activity for during Isaac's nap time, when I often have a hard time keeping his exuberant play a little more quiet. We just have to be extra careful when Isaac s awake and make sure all buttons are out of his reach. the sink is missing from Noah's kitchen because he pulls it out to use as a mixing bowl for his button cake.I think Grandma would be proud that her carefully saved buttons are getting put to use in so many ways.