Summer Firstfruits

After several years of being sabotaged by the weather, it is so much fun to finally be getting some beautiful fruit from our gardening efforts! Sure, we’ve gotten vegetables from previous gardens, and some of it has been nice, but it really is just plain hard to garden in the Hills without either a greenhouse or a hail structure. Or, as this summer is showing, containers on our deck. There is something absolutely peaceful and restorative about pruning our tomato plants, or pruning and dead-heading my flowers, and the whole process of cultivating and caring for plants is immensely satisfying and energizing.
IMG_0316IMG_0313IMG_0308And nothing beats a sandwich with thick slices of freshly-picked, sun-warmed tomato…


Cultivating Curiosity

This is one of those memorable homeschool projects that always delighted me as a little girl, and I’m afraid it still delights me now as a woman. I remember going out into ditches along country roads, even as a teenager, and gingerly examining milkweed leaves in an eager search for monarch caterpillars. The process of watching the tiny creatures, no less one of God’s creatures than a dog or a horse or a bird, and witnessing their metamorphosis. Absolutely amazing. And it still excites me now.
IMG_9034eSo seven swallowtail caterpillars which I found on our dill are now residents of this little cabin, along with the rest of the things in our tabletop “Observatory.” We’ll have the thrill of watching them transform from rather ugly little worms into breathtaking beauties through a process that absolutely defies all the gymnastics and contortions of evolutionary thought, and could only have come about by the creative power of a Creator God.

One of the greatest gifts homeschooling gave to me is the love of learning. Anything. Just learning. Homeschooling allowed me and my siblings to explore learning in creative ways, hands on ways, memorable ways. It is tragic that any parent with a desire to homeschool would choose to not homeschool because they don’t feel qualified. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a homeschool parent. You don’t have to be a certified teacher to be a homeschool parent. Your biggest job as a homeschool parent is to help your child desire to learn.

So much of what is taught prior to college is a waste of time (even a lot of what is taught in college, actually). Even the subjects that are considered “important.” I’m sure that some people would say those subjects are important because they help with brain development or something like that, but it seems that if they were that important, I’d remember more of them.  I chuckle as I admit that I do not remember how to find the area of a circle (pi and the radius are in there somewhere, I think), I don’t remember what years Richard the Lionheart was king, I don’t remember how many Crusades there were, and I really couldn’t tell you any practical application for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I’m not sure I even know what it is anymore. Parabolas and equations baffled me. I never cared what x or y was anyway. I was forced to read The Scarlet Letter in highschool and remember hating it, and maintain that if God ever blesses me with kids I will never punish them with that book. I do remember pi to the seventh decimal place, which is absolutely useless.

But there is something that is so much more important than those dates and names and formulas and laws and hypothoses I’ve forgotten – I remember that learning is a joy and I still crave to be learning. I remember time with my mom and science projects with my dad and looking at pond bacteria under microscopes and watching things grow on Petri dishes. I remember growing butterflies on milkweed, identifying birds, collecting leaves, pressing flowers, and reading The Borrowers. We built Borrower homes and played Borrowers for weeks and months. I remember what it was like to be a child, and I remember what it was to play, to climb trees, ride bicycles, and make forts. We loved to make forts. I remember making rag dolls to be like Laura Ingalls, and learning how to sew at a young age, a skill that grew to actually be a serious hobby and some self-employment. I remember reading wonderful literature with Mom and my sisters – books like The Door in the Wall, The Golden Goblet, and Adam of the Road. I remember loving Ivanhoe, The Scottish Chiefs, and reveling in Shakespeare plays. I pored over books on daily life in the Middle Ages as I worked on a novel set in a fantasy kingdom, and tried to learn Welsh, and learned the Tengwar alphabet so I could write in Elvish script. I taught myself how to shape something in clay, make a mold of it using latex and gauze, and then cast it in resin. I remember studying Ancient Egypt and making a terrarium with the Nile running through the middle. I remember beautiful pictures of Roman women in their flowing robes, and reading The Eagle of the Ninth. I remember making plaster of Paris relief carvings. I remember doing an oil pastel reproduction of the face of Botticelli’s “Venus,” which I remember thinking was gorgeous but in reality was really quite ghastly. I remember discovering the Western novel in highschool, and being enthralled by the myth and lore of the West and the frontier.

None of what I just mentioned would show up on a standardized test. But what I remember is delight, and joy, and exploration, and curiosity, and discovery.

Any parent can give that to their children. And they’ll be learning right alongside their kids, sharing in that delight, watching with awe as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.

$5 Date

We don’t need to go far to have a daddy-daughter date. I may be grown up, but my dad is still my man. A $5 box of shotgun shells, Dad’s 12-gauge shotgun, some paper plates, and an old, dead tree made for a pleasant end of the evening. Kind of felt sorry for the tree, but it was dead already.
IMG_9030eGrowing up in Illinois, we never got to do much shooting. Gun ownership is kind of a hot topic, and firearm ownership is complicated by the FOID card, which is an Illinois-specific form of gun registration. Living in town was an added complication. Opportunities to learn the fine skill of marksmanship were essentially nil. And any use for self-defense would probably have resulted in jail time. And I’m only kind of kidding.

South Dakota is another story. Open carry is permitted, concealed carry permits are easy to come by ($10 cash to the sheriff), and gun ownership and firearms proficiency are well accepted in this independent, rural, conservative state. So I’m slowly working my way towards proficiency. And for two single girls living rurally, that’s a good feeling.

Keeping Cool

Nothing like a hike to the local swimming hole on a hot day! It is a little too well known now, but it is still fun. And with all the rain we’ve had, there is a lot of water gushing over the falls right now! Lots of wildflowers, very few ticks, LOTS of poison ivy. And by the time we got down to Big Falls, the canyon was in the shade, so for those of us not inclined to swim, we could still cool off. Hah. It was fun watching/heckling Anna as she tried to get up the nerve to cliff jump, and jump she did! Katie, Sarah, and Jess were adventurous enough to swim against the current and get right up next to Big Falls. That’s a lot of water!
IMG_8469eIMG_8473eIMG_8492eIMG_8509eIMG_8531eIMG_8521eIMG_8466eOh, the fun we have in the summertime.

At Evening

It would be impossible to count how many gorgeous photographs I pass by every day. Which is one reason I sometimes intentionally leave my camera at home, to keep myself from being tempted to do nothing but take pictures all day, or be annoyed with myself that I didn’t stop for that picture. Besides, all too often I have my camera with me and never see anything that compels me to stop and capture it. But then again, sometimes I do have my camera and I do feel compelled to stop. And then how glad I am.
IMG_8434eI see these landscapes all the time, but found this view captivating.

Footsore and Fancy Free

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”

~Robert Louis Stevenson

Two parts of an adventure are the best. The beginning, when I’m fresh and excited. And the end, when I’m exhausted and delighted. There’s all the good stuff in the middle, too, of course. But the anticipation and reflection are the really, really good stuff.IMG_8553eThere’s almost nothing I love better than setting out on an old two-track or faded foot path, or leaving the trail altogether and just wandering. I love the mystery of what lies around that next bend, or over that next hill, or through that stand of trees. So much of our life is mechanically predictable, or we attempt to make it that way. Society tells us to make it that way. We try to set our routine, to know what we’re doing and where we’re going. We like being in control, being efficient, being safe. We like predictable. And that’s good for the functioning of society, and good for making the most efficient use of one’s time. But sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy. Because sometimes I just want to not know what will happen.

Because there is that part of the heart that longs for adventure, newness, and a little bit of risk. There is that hunger for not knowing, for the thrill of the unknown delight. When a person sets out on an adventure, as much as we might think we know how it will go and what will happen, we don’t know. We are taking a risk, however small, in that beyond that next bend, what is there is utterly unknown to us.

Ah, yes. Those first steps of an adventure are glorious. IMG_8716eAnd then there’s the end of the trail. All the beauty and exhilaration still rings in my mind. I’m sweat-soaked, tired, and footsore. I’ve seen what was around that corner, I’ve looked over that hilltop, I’ve gazed into the valley, stared hard at wildflowers, and watched the sunlight filter through the trees. I’ve felt the heat, breathed deep of the clean air, and basked in the cool damp under the trees. I’ve tasted of the goodness of Creation.   IMG_8630eI’ve listened to the quiet, which is the hush and song of nothing…and everything. The untouched landscape is matchless in beauty. And sometimes it is those tiny delights that are the best: the reflection of the sunlit trees in a puddle, or a glowing flower, or the lights and shadows in that certain place where the hills meet just so, or where the trail bends out of sight. IMG_8583eI’m forever thankful to live in a place where God’s beauty and glory and creative might are so evident, and so easily evident. I don’t have to hunt for them. His marvels aren’t covered over with concrete, or constantly interrupted by power lines and apartments and shopping centers. All I have to do is to look, to gaze with eyes desiring to see.  When I see so much beauty and my heart is stirred, it is as if Jesus is saying softly, “Remember me, I’m here.” May my heart never harden to His attributes seen so clearly in His Creation. May they never become commonplace, but always mysterious and wonderful.IMG_8693eThe new trail, the new peak, or something as small as that new wildflower….or the familiar trail, familiar peak, or familiar wildflower….those are delights that speak to my soul. I want to feel deeply, to ache with the beauty of God’s Creation. I want to sweat, to be sore and tired and renewed.

In short, there’s nothing quite like being footsore and fancy free.