Mariana and Her Men

November 4, 2014

The Leaves are Falling

Filed under: Uncategorized — marianfrances @ 10:27 pm

This is the fourth autumn that we have spent at our little house. I have memories of moving in and raking up the tremendous number of leaves supplied by our large maples (I think I counted nine, with a few other deciduous varieties to boot) while very pregnant with Jude. And here we are now with two more sweet boys. God has truly blessed us beyond measure.

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Baby Simon
Simon just passed the six month mark last week and I discovered (much to my dismay) that he just cut a couple of teeth! Gummy smiles are some of my favorites, so I’m enjoying them now, knowing that they will be gone soon. His height, weight, and head circumference are all at about the 50th percentile — I had always wondered what an average sized baby looked like and now I have one =) Simon really enjoys standing up while holding onto your hands and he is good at getting up on his hands and knees, although he lacks the coordination required to crawl.  Nonetheless, if I leave him on the ground, I can always be sure he will not be in the same place I left him.   We started solids with him around his sixth month birthday (I have been enjoying the ease of breastfeeding and decided to put it off about a month later than I started the other two boys) and discovered that he loves food and figured out the mechanics of swallowing very quickly. I was going to do soft finger foods and allow him to feed himself from the start, but this method frustrates him, so we are currently using our finger or a spoon to give him soft bits of what we are eating. He has become pretty vocal about his likes and dislikes and I feel like he is distinctly more high maintenance than he was a few months ago. He has such wonderful facial expressions and is really responsive to people’s smiles. He laughs and squeals and makes all sorts of delightful baby noises — in short, we are all pretty crazy about him. I love snuggling with him on the couch in the evening when he’s really supposed to be in bed. I sniff the top of his soft downy head and try my hardest to remember it.

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St. Katherine's

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Jude
Jude is no longer a baby — he turned three last week! He has grown up so much in the last year, particularly in his ability to speak. Right now he likes to add “That’s for sure!” to the end of his statements and it is adorable. Probably his favorite part about his birthday was his new chair for eating at the table and his balloon, which I think he played with for hours. Jude is an independent little boy – he does a great job playing by himself, and likes to do some things himself – but at the same time he adores his older brother and loves to play with him. He asks Ransom questions all the time and Ransom (pleased, of course to be considered the local authority) matter of factly gives him an answer. It is really fun for me to listen to these exchanges. Jude really likes to make believe right now and will inform us of what animal he is pretending to be. It can come in handy (in his mind) at times:

Me: Let’s go potty, Jude.
Jude: I can’t! I’m a mouse! Mouses don’t go potty!
or
Me: Let’s go Jude, we need to go inside.
Jude: (Dropping to the ground) I can’t! I’m a slug!
 Well slug your way up the hill then…

His favorite song is “Shoo fly, don’t bother me!” and has been for months now, I rather feel like it epitomizes an aspect of his personality — I love hearing his little voice sing it, or anything else for that matter. Jude also enjoys snuggles and books. Shortly before he turned three we started potty training him and he does really well. We waited much longer to start training him in earnest and it went much more quickly and smoothly than with Ransom. He is still an avid thumb sucker and I admit that I still lack the drive to work on that one. Jude’s smile and laugh constantly melt my heart.

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[insert pouring leaves on mommy here]

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Ransom
We put Ransom in a private Christian preschool this year even though we are hoping to eventually homeschool him and I am convinced it was the right decision! He LOVES his teacher and has matured so much through the experience. He doesn’t talk a lot about class, but it is obvious that his favorite activity there is woodworking. He is becoming more outgoing and likes to joke and sing. I think Ransom has gained more energy as he has gotten older! He runs and runs, whether it be inside or out. He is still cautious about doing things until he feels capable of them and is very safety conscious, for which I am grateful. Ransom is very nurturing and he is great about helping me with Simon and other things we ask him to do. He is also a very creative and an independent thinker – if he has his mind made up about something, it can be hard to dissuade him, and he doesn’t care if a peer thinks differently. He also makes little inventions and tells me about them all the time. He seeks to please us — the other day at dinner time we were dishing up and he enthusiastically said “I will eat whatever you give me!” even though the choices were not his favorite. His best friend is Jude, which of course does my heart good.

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Husband and I are doing well! I started working part time again in September and it has made our schedule a little bit more hectic, but it has gone well and I enjoy my work a lot. We feel incredibly blessed by the three children God has given us to raise. I really love watching their interactions with each other and enjoying the unique relationship that I have with each. It is hard work and sometimes we don’t know how to deal with the challenges that get more complicated as everyone gets older, but we pray for wisdom and do our best.

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Sometimes a mom just can’t get everyone to smile at once, especially when you’re on your own taking photos.

July 23, 2014

Dream Baby

Filed under: Uncategorized — marianfrances @ 9:41 am

Baby Simon is two almost three months old and is a mother’s dream of a baby.  He decided to start sleeping through the night shortly after he turned two months, which naturally has made life even more pleasant than it was before.  Simon is still young enough to be content with being placed in a swing or on a mat by himself while I do household chores or spend time with the boys, but then is full of coos, gurgles and huge smiles when I come back to him.  I love watching his entire little body wriggle with excitement when he sees me.  He enjoys being the center of attention but doesn’t demand it.  He thrives when we stick to a routine but is also amazingly tolerant to deviations from it.  He cries when there is a problem, and not when there isn’t — it even feels like he tries to maintain a good attitude as long as possible when the situation is less than ideal before breaking down.   Because he does so well sleeping in his bed (but not his carseat) we’ve spent a lot of time at home (particularly in the yard/garden) and while I enjoy getting out, this has felt like a special period of our lives that will pass quickly and I am loving the simplicity of it.

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June 17, 2014

The Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — marianfrances @ 8:37 pm

General warning:  this will be a really boring post to probably anyone but me.  But I think if I write it down on a piece of paper, it will most likely get lost, so I opted to keep track via blogging.  Feel free to drop and run now. 

We made some definite changes to the garden this year, and ones that I’m hoping and believing will be marked improvements.  Last year I tried to utilize the many small garden spots that appeared to have been previously cultivated by previous tenants.   The difficulty was that they were not only spread out, but also largely shaded, and in the end it felt like a lot of maintenance for such a modest harvest.  This year, we decided to plant grass in the shaded miniplots, keep the garden space that produced decently, and make more raised beds in the sunnier regions of the yard.  Now to think about it, I don’t know why we didn’t do that in the first place.  Live and learn, right?

As early as January, we decided to start up our tabletop hydroponics units to grow salad greens and few herbs in a little grow cabinet made of those reflective blankets you can get for wilderness survival.  I also planted a few seeds in pots at that time.  Our basement is unfinished, unheated, and COLD, so everything grew really slowly but it did grow.  The seeds in the hydroponics system were markedly faster growing than those in the pots, but both transplanted well to the outdoors when the time came.

In March, I started more salad greens and parsley indoors.  They were first started downstairs on a heated map under grow lights, and then brough upstairs to our porch which kept them from the frost.  I also planted some peas because my transplants were successful last year.   Husband worked on a portable hoop house unit to cover the 4’ x 8’ raised bed that he made for me last year.  I also asked him for a small three or four foot square bed that I could plant strawberries in, and he made me a second 4’ x 8’ box! I was SO excited, and decided to use it for both strawberries and tomatoes.

By the end of March or early April, we transplanted the indoor lettuce greens and the peas to the raised bed and planted some radishes and everything did great!  It was a mini green house, and we had no trouble with frost-nipped plants.  I loved running down to the corner and lifting up the side to see how much everything had grown.  I got the new bed ready by covering the floor with cardboard and a lot of composted and uncomposted leaves, then laying local bulk compost mixed with perlite, peat moss, green sand, rock phosphate, and organic fertilizers.  We then planted the strawberries and few seeds.  The seeds in the new bed came up, but grew much slower than the plants in the hoop house.  In the end, I got a decent harvest of spinach by the beginning of June, but took out most everything else before it matured in order to make room for the tomatoes.

Speaking of spinach, we had the most scrumptious crop of overwintered spinach that I have ever tasted.  This was good to know because I also learned that spinach does NOT grow well hydrponically, and it doesn’t transplant well.  I planted the early spring crop in my raised bed in the fall (I wish I remember when…) and it looked alive but slightly pitiful all winter long, somehow surviving our plunges into the negative degrees Fahrenheit.  Once the weather warmed up, it grew abundantly.  It was so good I am tempted to fill an entire box with it this fall.

In April I started more seeds — lettuce, spinach (still hadn’t learned that lesson), peas, and swiss chard — in small pots outdoors.  This way I didn’t have to harden them off, but I could take them inside when it frosted.    I also decided to transplant the lettuce and peas from the hoop house to the outside garden.  My rationale with the peas was that they would not have a chance to produce before I wanted to fill the box in June, so I better transplant them early before their roots developed much more to give them the best chance at surviving (because they don’t like transplanting in the first place).  I don’t quite remember why I decided to transplant the lettuce… maybe I wanted to make room for other crops in the raised bed, or maybe I was running out of room.  It WAS a project to keep me busy while I was waiting for a baby to arrive, and that reason alone gives it some merit.  The transplants went directly to the tomato garden, affectionately named because we grew tomatoes in it last year.  We rototilled this garden mid April and it turned out decently but in all honesty I jumped the gun and should have been patient at least until early May.  We fortified the bed with leaves that had taken a turn in the chicken coop as well as several wheel barrows full of bulk compost.  I was a bit worried about how the garden would turn out because the leaves had not fully composted and so the soil was (and still is) not fine grained, but as it turns out, it grows lettuce, peas, and parsley quite well.  The garden gets a lot of filtered light, and a few hours of direct sunlight in the afternoon, so I’m hoping to be able to get salad greens out of it decently late into the summer even though it produces slower than the sunnier spots in early spring.  We moved our herbs (thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, rosemary, and mint in a pot) to a small corner of this garden and they are growing beautifully in their new environment.

Before Simon arrived in late April, I had my first onions, carrots, and potatoes started as well, and went out on a limb and planted several tomatoes in homemade Wall-O-Waters. The latter survived and are are now my most advanced tomato plants.  During April I also tried hardening off some early cucumbers and melons that I had started indoors – they did decently until I planted them, and then most died.  The comfortable environment of the hoop house turned into a breeding ground for pill bugs in late spring, and they feasted on my young seedlings.

May is unpredictable here.  The final frost date is usually placed midway through, but frosts are not surprising the last week of the month.  This year the frosts ended early, to the gardener’s advantage.  Last year I had fun experimenting with fun spring varieties like bok choi, Swiss chard, broccoli, and kohlrabi, but when it came down to it, we didn’t consistently have enough salad greens planted to allow us to harvest whenever we wanted it, and let’s face it… our family only occasionally eats bok choi and Swiss chard.  Kohlrabi apparently needs a good deal of sun, and I have other vegetables that I prioritize for that real estate.  This year I committed to simplifying the number of vegetable types I would plant and focusing on planting a larger amount of veggis that we consume on a regular basis.  By May, all the transplants from any pots I had anywhere were in the ground, and I direct seeded a final patch of lettuce as well, giving me lettuce at approximately four stages of growth and spinach at two.  The main difficulty I’ve run into with this is spacing!  Many of my transplants were quite small and I assumed that a good number might die, which did not happen, and as a result, I had a lot of plants 3-6 inches apart rather than the good 8-12 inches that they really need to get big.  It is really hard for me to throw away healthy plants, so when it became obvious that this was happening, I began to re-transplant the thinnings. There are significantly more peas this year, grown in three successive plantings.

My goal was to get my entire garden in by the first of June, but husband undertook the HUGE project of clearing away some of our juniper bushes for me for Mother’s Day, and this didn’t get to a reasonable stopping point for another few weeks.  The end result?  More land clear for new garden boxes!  He built me two more boxes – one was 4 x 10 and the other was 4 x 12.  The man loves me, can’t you tell?  As much as I dislike juniper bushes, the one very helpful contribution that they made was to kill anything that tried to live under them.  As a result, we did not have to clear any grass or weeds in our bed preparation.   I used a bit of an elaborate soil mix for my other beds, using the Square Foot Gardening technique by Mel Bartholomew as a guideline, but for these boxes I opted for the cheaper method of mixing bulk compost with the existing dirt (4 x 12 box) or mixing soil with leave compost, juniper compost, and a minimal amount of compost.  We had also bought a large bag of Dr. Earth 5-5-5 organic fertilizer and I used that to feed almost all my garden this year except the lettuces, which I planted before buying it.  We got these beds filled and mostly planted during the first week of June.

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The Tomato Garden:  Herbs, lettuces, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, pole beans

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Come meal preparation, I love running outside to choose what the day’s salad will be.  The selection is broader than the supermarket and I know that there are no pesticides on our produce.  The only problem is that sometimes it’s so pretty I don’t want to pick it!

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The Juniper Garden:  Zucchini, tomatoes, onions, carrots (not in picture), spinach, and  lettuce transplants

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The First Raised Bed: Watermelons and melons (mostly short season), basil, cucumbers, carrots, a few lettuces, ground cherries, and one tomato.

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Ground cherries are one of this year’s experiments.  The kids love fruit, so I’m trying to grow more of it.

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“Minnesota Midget” mini cantaloupe.  I already tried transplants which failed, so we’ll see if direct seeding gets me fruit by the end of summer.

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The second raised bed:  Heirloom and standard tomatoes, a few lettuces, and strawberries.

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The strawberries are ripening!  I was wondering if we should cover them with bird netting, but the boys can only seem to wait long enough for them to turn half ripe in the first place, so I’m guessing we’ll enjoy most of them.

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The results post-war with the junipers. Yes, the bushes look terrible, if you saw how much work it would be to take them all out right now, you’d understand why they currently look like that.  BUT look at those boxes!! Aren’t they amazing? I’m trying pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchini, beans, swiss chard, onions, radishes, carrots, dill, cucumbers, and doing a trial of some spring veggis around the pumpkins while they grow.

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Little sprout!

The lesson that I am learning during this early growing season is patience.  If I mention starting cucumbers, squashes, or melons indoors before the beginning of May next year, feel free to gently (or not so gently, I might listen better) remind me to wait.  There really are more productive uses of the garden space (i.e. spring veggis), and I’ve decided that putting these crops out before June is really doing them no favors, as it is too cold for them to grow well, even if they are capable of surviving.  We just recently had a cold spell (50 F during the day with rain) in the middle of June and I’ve noticed that the direct seeded seedlings are doing far better than the transplants as well, so I’m pondering what to make of that as well.

I’m excited to see how the summer progresses!  Fall harvest brassicas were just planted yesterday.  I love the busyness of it — there’s always something to do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2014

More babies have arrived

Filed under: Uncategorized — marianfrances @ 4:18 am

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Five of them cheep, one waddles.

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together

Not all of them are pictured because the kids do best holding one or (at most) two at a time.  And, to be honest, I’m trying to encourage the kids to hold the ones destined for eggs rather than the table.  The problem, however, is the duck.  We’re falling for it fast.  We’ve submitted a follow-up petition to the city of Pullman in order to see if by some chance we can keep it and increase our total number of chickens.  We currently get around two dozen eggs a week and could pretty easily consume twice that.  If our petition gets accepted and our little Donald turns out to be a Daisy, we may in the end decide to keep her.  Currently, the jury’s still out.

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Regardless of what happens, the small flock currently residing under a heat lamp in our basement is getting an awful lot of love.

 

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