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My mother is, by her own admission, an obsessive gardener.  Over the last twenty years she (with Dad’s help) has created what is essentially a botanical garden in a suburban yard in Delaware.  The neighborhood yards are average, some attractive, some neglected, but when you come to my parents yard – it takes your breath away.



One might expect a garden like this in a grand estate or a Charleston city mansion.  That’s why it’s such a treasure, you just don’t expect it.  As much as their neighbors, friends and family love it – it’s my mother’s passion.  She works on it perpetually and says she has a love/hate relationship with it but overall I’d say it feeds her spiritually more than it exhausts her physically.  It keeps her young and Dad as well because he gets tapped for all the “projects.”  I wish pictures could capture the beauty and peace in this garden and all the joy it brings those who are lucky enough to walk through it.  There are so many different ways to create a little beauty in the world, a song, a poem, yarn, gardening, painting, a kind gesture.  Walking the paths of my mother’s garden inspires me and slows me down, it beckons gently and refuses to be ignored.


As a homeschooler, this “end of school” time of year feels stranger each year the children get older.  What is it we are ending?  Are we going to stop learning and reading for the summer?  Of course not.  We will put aside formal math lessons, history lessons and other curricula that is more “schoolish.”  We are all hooked on reading aloud (almost done with Tolkein’s four books, I hope they remember it because I’m not doing it again!)  so we’ll keep that up.   So much of what we do is related to learning (just like in all educated families – homeschooling or not) that the line called “school” is getting more fuzzy for us.  We don’t have the dramatic transition that school families do.  Most of our friends are not homeschoolers (there aren’t many around here), and most of my kid’s friends go to school.  My friends who send their children to school have shared that they are relieved school is over, now they can relax from the schlepping, homework and busyness that surround it.

Since we school at home, what is defined as “schoolwork” and what is a really fun project (like my daughter learning to design and sew 18th century costumes for her doll) is something we are sorting out.  If I call it “school” I get groans, if I say, let’s learn about the stars this summer and go to a planetarium – I get excitement.   For us, I guess summer is more of a fading of some formal studies in favor of projects and spending more time outside with the animals, farm and garden chores, an occasional camp for the kids and a family vacation trip thrown in somewhere.

Still, my kids want some of the same rituals school kids have.  Since the school kids around here all have a “last day of school” party,  I bought a box of Lucky Charms cereal (probably the 2nd time that sugar “breakfast” aka dessert has been in our house) to celebrate.  For our school party, the kids inhaled the evil cereal, we picked more snow peas, played with chicks and gave Flynn (my much fawned over horse baby) a bath.

He's white! It will last about 15 minutes.

The snow peas are in.  We try to eat them as fast as they grow but we are woefully falling behind.  We’ve eaten them everyday, sometimes for lunch and dinner.  I even went out this morning and ate some for breakfast!  This is the way it is with a garden, you eat what’s in season.  I remember laughing about Barbara Kingsolver’s stories of endless, unavoidable zucchini in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.   We’ve tried freezing snow peas in the past and it’s just disappointing so we would rather share them and turn green eating them.   While the garden is in we sacrifice variety for fresh homegrown vegetables.  It’s an easy trade-off.    My son is amazed at the value of a package of seeds.  “So, it only cost $2.00 to buy all the seeds to grow all these plants and all these snow peas?!”  Even though there is some work involved, a vegetable garden really is the ultimate bargain in so many ways.  If you don’t have much space, the book Square Foot Gardening is a wonderful system.  Keep it small and grow only things you love to eat.

Fresh and just barely done.

Here’s a simple favorite with snow peas:

Heat a wok to medium and put a dash of olive oil in it.  Throw in a bunch of snow peas in and toss constantly until they are a bright, uniform green.  Salt lightly or use a dash of Braggs liquid aminos and enjoy!

They are here!  About 26 chicks hatched over the last week and what fun to see all the different colors and guess their parents from our flock of about 25 hens and 2 roosters.  The children have named many of them, from Bonnie to Vivian.  We had a very successful hatch and now know that testing the thermometer against others is critical!   We hatched as many blue and green eggs as we could, those are the chicks with “fat faces.”  They have a lot of plumage which makes them look chubby.  Rather than blather on though, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking…

Resting in between squirming, such hard work!

Stretching for the first time

Tuck fighting his instincts

So many breeds, so many colors!

Curly getting hypnotized

Decisions reflect how we see ourselves.  The decisions we make tell volumes about us.  I bought a horse six years ago that turned out not to be a good match for me temperament wise.  I worked with her, hired trainers, read books, asked people’s advice, etc., etc.  I was told she would settle down when she got older, that she just needed more ground work and other well intentioned advice.  I thought about selling her and moving on time after time but always seemed to find a way to talk myself out of it (by trusting someone else’s advice).  All the time I really didn’t enjoy her much of the time and never took her anywhere to do anything.

Finally, a few months ago (with my husband’s no nonsense counsel) I declared that I was done with trying.  I was going to look for a calm, smart, willing horse.   After scanning hundreds of email ads, talking with people and visiting some horses, I found Flynn last week.  I had thoroughly checked out his breeding and history and when I met him I had a great gut feel about him.   I was still anxious about my judgment though, after all, I had made the decision to get the mare.  I called my husband and blathered on excitedly cautious about this and that and his good points and his liabilities and he said with characteristic simplicity, “Just buy him.”  I will always remember how he cut through my jumble of fear and excitement with that simple statement.  I whooped and hollered and bought him.

Now that I’ve had Flynn for a week, I can’t believe I put up with the mare for six years.  At only 4 years old, he is calm, tractable and all around a pleasure to be with and learn with.   Why did it take me so long?  To use an acronym a client once shared with me, it’s an AFGO (Another F____  Growth Opportunity).   It made me aware of how we sometimes make decisions and tolerate things for not very good reasons.  Pay attention to your decisions, what you tolerate and what it says about you.

Flynn, my new love

I first learned of the “Total Compensation” phrase years ago when I worked in the corporate world.  We used it to describe the various ways an employee was compensated in addition to their salary.  We were attempting to show employees that all the other stuff:  vacations, health benefits, insurance, training were all part of compensation.

A few days ago I heard a radio guest (never got her name) say that when she focused on being grateful and all her blessings she felt happy and when she focused on the lack in her life compared to others she felt down.  I have experienced the same thing, I don’t think it’s uncommon.  I began to connect this idea with the Total Compensation idea.  When I view my life in it’s entirety and notice all the blessings instead of picking apart one area or another that I may be dissatisfied with, I feel more at peace.

I also have occasional fantasies of just having one or two main focuses in my life instead of the several I have.  I imagine being just a mom or just an executive coach or just a horseback rider  or just a fiber artist, etc.  Wouldn’t life be grand with a singular focus!  While this would be fun for awhile, I then remind myself of who I am and how easily I can get bored or obsessed with one thing.  It’s all these different things, I tell myself,  the total package – that makes life dynamic and challenging.

So when I contemplate the “Total Compensation” in my life I am filled with gratitude and happiness.  I’ll take those feelings over envy and self-pity any day!

Speaking of blessings, I asked my 9 year old son if he could make dinner so I’d have time to ride after work and this is what I walked in the kitchen to find; lot’s of veggies and lots of dishes!

A joyous moment, my son making us dinner!

Well after three weeks of turning our eggs and hopeful anticipation of many fuzzy chicks to play with, we hatched one.  Yes, you read right, 36 eggs and one baby!  So the children and I used the failure as a science project.  We hypothesized that perhaps the thermometer that came with our new incubator was inaccurate.  We gathered five thermometers from around the farm and put them in the incubator and found that the one we used was 5 degrees too cool.  So we believe that we cooked our chicks.  When we thought we had them at 99.5, they were actually at about 105 degrees.  We can’t figure out how we have one live chick that survived this sauna.  He was our biggest egg which led to more theories.  Here is a picture of “Buddy” as my son named him, I think “Miracle” is more fitting.  He shivers quite a bit and seems to like being right under the heat lamp, hmmm.

Buddy the Wonder Chick

We think his Dad is “Officer” and his Mom is “Triple Time Cuteness:”

Dad, our sweetest rooster named "Officer"

Mom, "Triple Time Cuteness," an Araucana who lays olive green eggs

This weekend we will test our hypothesis by putting a batch of fresh eggs in the incubator with a new, tested thermometer.  So back to waiting anxiously for three more weeks!

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