Monday, December 27, 2010

the tree of all trees

We were ever so lucky to win a free Christmas tree this year in a raffle from our good friends the Lynches. We showed up the Sunday before Christmas to hunt down the perfect tree. They had a huge selection of noble firs to pick from and the decision was hard to make - when each tree is gorgeous, how do you choose?

After much looking everyone settled on the tree that both boys picked first (sometimes, no matter how much looking you do, you won't find a tree you like as much as the tree that first catches your eyes). Big Jamey was concerned about how tall it was and agreed to getting it only if I would help carry it. Which, I happily complied to. It turned out that these trees had relatively slender bases and were lighter than expected.

After roping our tree to the car, we were off to bring it home for decorating.

To give the tree a bit of perspective, I had James stand by it for this picture.

We had a blast decorating it and I am still amused that all decor stops about 1/3 from the top - even James couldn't reach that high. We have so enjoyed this tree and I definitely plan on heading back to the Lynches next year for another wonderful tree.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Decade

With the winter break on us, and having considerably more free time, I thought I'd catch up on some blogging and capture a few events before I forget. Here is a recap of Jamey's birthday:

Jamey is now ten, and we celebrated his day doing things he wanted to do. First on the list - a day off of school, except for ice skating lessons. After that, we went to: 1) Jamba Juice, 2) Firstenburg Community Center, 3) book store 4) Sushi restaurant for dinner and 5) home for present unwrapping. After the fun day, I pestered him for an interview, which he kindly gave:

What is it like being 10?
It is a little weird. Another year has passed and I can never be 9 again. I am not sure what to think about that one.

What was your favorite part of your birthday?
Well, there were three things. Getting to be with everyone, receiving presents and going to Sushi Land.

What didn't you like about your birthday?
I didn't have enough ideas on how to spend the day.

Anything surprising about today?
Finding chocolate frogs in the Harry Potter section of the book store. They were good too.

Do you have any words of wisdom or thoughts you'd like to share?
No matter how old you become, your mind always stays the same. You are always you.

Also, it is kind of weird having this interview - it's always weird. I like it though.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas at Fort Bale

The day began magically with the tree lighting the darkness. We were woken up shortly after 7 by Arthur (who benevolently let us sleep in) letting us know Santa had come!

With all of us awake and convened in the living room, unwrapping began, picking up speed with the mounting excitement of the kids.

And at the end of it all, a wonderful kaleidescope of chaos.

Wishing you the best of holidays.

Monday, November 22, 2010

4 inches and rising

It started snowing yesterday much to the delight of all of us. We went out for a walk in the snow and enjoyed all the usual snow antics. On our way home, we were surprised that our tracks were no longer visible. It continued snowing until late evening when it stopped.

This morning, it started up again and has been going steady. I declared a snow day for the boys (why should all the public school going children get all the fun?!) and they have been out having a merry time all morning.

I just measured the snow at 4.25 inches. I'm rooting for 6+ by the end of the day. James is working at home today and enjoying the view of snow from the window. Jamey is discussing his traditional roll in the snow au naturel. Arthur is tossing snow clumps for Biscuit to chase and attack. I'm cooking up a batch of biscotti which is making the house smell so yummy. All in all, it is shaping up to be a wonderful day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

busy busy

Life at Fort Bale has been flying by. Homeschooling, Creative Classes - 6 for each kid, 4-H meetings, grange, comiss. meetings, quilt club, along with farm life, and trying to stay on top of personal goals has left little down time. Hence, I've been letting a lot of items slide (blog included). I can honestly say that I think I have found my limit on what I can handle, which is a new feeling for me. I keep thinking of what I can drop to free up more time, but every item I go over gives me or a family member such joy/satisfaction in the activity that the gain of free time doesn't outweigh the loss of the event. Right now, I am just enjoying the ride and feel grateful that we have so many opportunities which make our days so fun.

That said, I am really looking forward to the vacation our family is starting tomorrow, and all the r&r it will entail. We are leaving bright and early for Maui and will stay there for a week. With no plans beyond swimming, hiking, and lounging I'm sure we will all come back refreshed and ready for anything.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

how do you cook breakfast?

If you are Jamey, you use snorkel gear, of course. I walked into the kitchen to find Jamey as you see above -and had to capture the moment before anything else. When I asked about the addition of snorkel mask to the usual cooks attire, he calmly replied "I was cutting onions, and they would have hurt my eyes". Very practical solution.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a new year

Another year has started for us. We are homeschooling again and looking forward to a wide variety of classes that they are excited to participate in, along with learning at home. We began our year the day after Labor Day at the beach with another mom and son who are homeschooling this year as well. It was a great way to ease into school. Now, better late than never, are the first day of school pictures of the boys.

Here is Arthur, age 8. He is in 4th grade this year.

With a bit of a ham bone showing, here is Jamey, age 9. He is in fifth grade this year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

stocking up

With fall looming ahead and all the craziness of a packed school year schedule, I have been trying to get as much canning done as possible. It is amazing at what a plethora of fresh produce is available right now and at such low prices. I have more to do, but this is what I've been stocking our pantry with so far:

Banana Strawberry Jam

Old Fashioned Ketchup

Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Corn Salsa

Green Beans

Blackberry Jam (low sugar)

Cinnamon Applesauce



Thursday, August 19, 2010

bubbles - mega style

We decided to try our hand with making giant bubbles. We had read about them in books the boys had, and online as well. So, with minimal preparation, we were able to give it a go. What a success it turned out to be!

Jamey attempted it first and had an avid audience of humans and chickens alike.

This bubble was so amazing that Miss. Red had to come inspect it closer.

Arthur created a magnificent bubble tunnel.

This was such a blast! I can't wait to make more today!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

farmin' it

Yesterday, the boys and I took a spontaneous and most unexpected field trip to visit a local farm, which turned into two, than three, and ended in a fourth.

We started the day going to the Clark County fairgrounds to take down the display Jamey and Arthur had, only to find out somebody beat us to the punch. Now we were out and about with time on our hands and we spied a sign for "NW Organic Farms" which sells organic garlic and organic heirloom tomatoes. We headed for it and picked a sampling of heirloom varieties to taste test. While there, I placed an order of tomatoes for canning (I'm not having too much faith in mine and hence, I'm hedging my bets). The worker was very kind and gave us cucumbers to try and threw in the tomato at the top. I think it is called "Cherokee Purple".

Next, we swung by Barker's Dahlias. Mr. Barker is a retired German teacher from Battle Ground High School and taught while my mother was a student there. We went out into the dahlia field to choose and cut a boquet of dahlias. The sprinklers were on and the kids gleefully cooled down in them.

After the flower visit we decided to swing by Van Tol dairy which was en route to home. They are an organic farm that sells milk and had u pick blueberries. Checking this place out made us desire some ice cream and so we got some from the local View store.

Lastly was a visit to a dear friend who freely gives us apples, pears, grapes, cherries, and prunes every year. I swung by to give her some eggs and was surprised when she told me she had apples ready for picking. We picked a few for a pie and said we would be back later in the week to do some serious picking, and to take care of some broken limbs that she was contending with.

We had a great time and I think all of us were charmed by going wherever our fancy took us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

hydrangea happiness

My mother has beautiful hydrangeas. They are in blues and purples, and I was very lucky to receive a start that she propagated from one of her bushes (oh boy oh boy oh boy!!!). I can't wait for it to grow so I can admire these flowers at my house. In the meantime, I picked a wonderful boquet from her flowers to enjoy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

flower bed spruce up

While I love poppies and all the early summer splendor they bring, once they go to seed our place started appearing a bit Adams family. I wanted some color splashes to finish the season with and headed to the nursery. To my surprise, they were holding their annual end of the season clearance (is it really the end? feels like summer just began), and I was able to get a trunkload of plants for $15!! I could hardly wait to drive home and get to work. Here are photos of the makeover.

before: ugh...

after: yay!

Friday, August 13, 2010

peaches for my peaches

Peach season has officially started down our way and we decided to do a bit of picking. When we showed up at the peach farm, the lady told the boys to go ahead and pick a peach to munch on while we worked. This kind gesture landed her smack into the heart of the boys who were soon covered in sticky juice and moaning with delight. There are few things better than a perfectly ripe peach on a hot summer day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

participating at the fair

This year Jamey and Arthur got the opportunity to have a display in the grange section of the Clark Co. fair. They were very excited and chose to explain the stages the chick embryo goes through up to hatching. As this was a big spring project for us, they had plenty of information they learned, along with pictures.

It was a thrill to have their own area showing their hard work and that the general public would see it. Jamey pointed out that "loads of people go through the displays and they will see ours!".

The setting up of the display happened earlier in the week before the fair started, and when we came back during the fair, they found a ribbon on the display. This was an unexpected surprise, and made the boys' day.

While the next fair is almost a year away, Jamey and Arthur are already brainstorming what they might want to show in 2011. I'm glad they had so much fun and took such pride in their efforts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

eight for Arthur

Yesterday, Arthur officially turned 8! We kept this birthday low key, but his excitement had all of us buzzing.
After the tradition of spitting out, I mean blowing out the candles, it was finally present time.

Arthur was simply tickled with the day. We spent the day at a friend's house with the kids playing and the mom's catching up. This was followed by Arthur's dinner choice of Chinese food, and once the gifts were revealed, play with the new items was nonstop until dark. A very sleepy but happy boy snuggled down and fell quickly asleep after all the day's events.

Like last year, I managed to slow him down long enough to get his response to some questions:

How does it feel to be eight?
It doesn't really feel different, but I feel I might be happy about my birthday greater than a week.

What did you like getting?
I liked getting tools like the pick axe and the whittling knife.

What was most exciting about your birthday?
The pick axe. Once I'm done with the interview, I can start picking at our rock cliff.

What didn't you like about your birthday?
I had to wait 350 days for it to come.

What did you learn in the last year?
I learned more responsibility so I could get a knife, and I know about wearing safety glasses.

Any words of wisdom?
People may tease you about your birthday, but the mean teasers (side note: this is in reference to a neighbor teasing Arthur about getting birthday spankings) are not true. I feel bad for the young ones who don't know that yet.

Monday, August 9, 2010

fishy nibbles and bites

Arthur's birthday is fast upon us. When discussing what he wanted for his birthday he enthusiastically declared that he wanted to go fishing (like father, like son!). Since we had more time on Sunday, we decided to go then for some pre-birthday fishing.

It was decided that this had to be about as successful as possible for the birthday boy since this was his main desire for the year. After considering different options, we settled on a trout farm. Indian Springs trout farm had many positive reviews about how easy and plentiful the fish were for catching. With the farm providing fishing poles, bait, cleaning, and bagging with ice, we were sold.

First order of business upon arriving was the setting of bait on hooks. And naturally, this fell to James as I looked on and the kids waited expectantly.

With some great coaching from James, Jamey was able to land the first two fish of the day.

Arthur started feeling a little frustrated with not catching any while his big brother was doing so well. With Jamey having caught his limit, Arthur sidled over to the "sweet spot" Jamey had been working with great success. Arthur soon caught his first fish! And then a second fish about 5 minutes later. This one was a real fighter and Arthur could hardly pull it in. Near the end of the battle, he was expressing concern about the burning in his arms. But with grim determination, he brought it close enough to the edge to be netted. Here he stands with his trophy (turns out it was a 13 incher).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

raspberry rhubarb jam (low sugar)

Isn't everything improved with rhubarb? With that premise in mind, I made this jam. I wasn't sure if one flavor would overpower the other, but they are surprisingly balanced. Being a rhubarb nut, I did think this was better than the plain raspberry jam I made earlier.

Day 5: Low Sugar Raspberry Rhubarb Jam: (I'm finding that a lot of these low sugar recipes still have more sugar than I'm interested in - I am going to tinker about and see if I can bring them down further, maybe even to no sugar).

You will need:
3 cups crushed raspberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 cup water
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell low sugar pectin

Saturday, August 7, 2010

low sugar rhubarb compote

I have no idea what a compote is, but I based this recipe off an old one called Rhubarb Compote. I had to tinker a while with it to get the flavor right, the sugar down, and it to set with the Sure-Jell low sugar pectin box. The jam was so worth the effort. It is definitely my favorite. Strong, tart, and clean. In fact, I like it so much I am planning to make a second batch of it. This is by the spoonful worthy.

Day 4: Low Sugar Rhubarb Compote:

You will need:
5 cups chopped Rhubarb
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
1 TBSP dried lemon peel
1 TBSP dried orange peel
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 box Sure-Jell low sugar pectin

Using these ingredients, follow the directions for cooked jam recipes included in the box and you are set.

Friday, August 6, 2010

low sugar raspberry jam

Like yesterday, I was able to make this jam by following the Sure-Jell low pectin box recipe. Little Jamey seems particularly fond on this one. I was able to use some raspberries off the plants Grandpa Ward gave us. I hope that by next year I will be able to grow enough that I won't have to buy any raspberries at all.

Day 3: Low Sugar Raspberry Jam:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

low sugar blueberry jam

Today's jam in one of big Jamey's favorite - blueberry! This was made following the recipe in the Sure-Jell low sugar pectin box. It made about 9 jars, and one of them has already been dug into!

Day 2: Low Sugar Blueberry Jam: all blueberry monsters in your house will love it