31 January 2009

Puppy day

Heidi and Jake checked out potential adoptive parents.

Heidi was kind enough to show us her babies.

In this pile of 3 week old (update Feb 16: turns out these guys are actually only 11 days old in this picture) Border Collie puppies lies the newest member of our family. We just don't know which one yet. In a couple of weeks, we'll go back to the farm where they currently live to pick out the perfect pup and then in March we'll take her home. Or maybe we could take them all.

29 January 2009

Not too unschool for school

Yesterday morning I shed a tear as I watched my child head off to catch the school bus for the first time. Yes, it was January 28, yes my child is 12, and, yes she's been to school before. But still. We decided last year that after the UN conference in June, we were going to unschool.

The first thing you do when you decide you're going to unschool is “deschool”. Deschooling involves spending a month for every year you were in school doing whatever the heck you want to shake all the institutional notions about learning that you've picked up from your time inside. After you've deschooled, you start taking responsibility for learning in whatever area sparks your interest. Of course, learning never really stops no matter what the official name for the phase of schooling you're in.

I'd say we were just about ready to transition to real unschooling when M decided she wanted to be a normal kid and spend time with other kids her age. Much discussion ensued (me: are you crazy? - her: trust me, I know what I'm doing). So, with my support, but on the full understanding that she's back to school completely voluntarily, M started school yesterday. We met her teacher on Monday and much to my relief, she's a very nice, not-bitter-yet, no nonsense kind of person.

I see this phase of M's life as another unschooling activity. She knows what she wants to get out of it – a normal kind of social life - and what she has to do to achieve that – act sort of normal for a while and enough schoolwork to avoid a lot of heat from the teacher. She thinks its impossible for school to be an unschooling activity, but any kid who knows that she can learn wherever she is and who is there entirely of her own accord and has to take full responsibility for her experience is unschooling. The same as if she had taken a volunteer position at an animal shelter, or decided to read all of Shakespeare's comedies or write a novel.

The first day went well. A couple of girls invited her to hang out with them, she got expert advice about who's who and what's what, the academics seem at first glance to be not overly demanding, and the school bus ride was quite tolerable with a bonus adventure involving a snowy ditch on the way home.

So what am I going to do now? That's simple, I'm still unschooling.

24 January 2009

Spooky deer

I was transferring some pictures from my camera to the computer when I found this cool picture of deer at dusk eating birdseed under the feeder. Apparently I will be doing battle with alien deer in the garden this year.

21 January 2009


It may come as a shock that I am not a hand bread kneader. I rely on my 10 year old stand mixer, which also drives my grain grinder and flaker. A month ago, the mixer started making crunchy noises and shortly after quit altogether. I brought it to the appliance repair shop where it was diagnosed with bad gears. I happily had the repair done given the alternative of chucking it in the garbage. Yesterday was the big day when I somewhat less happily paid the hundred and fifty bucks to retrieve the mixer. Last night I cracked some oats for porridge and I was thrilled to have the mixer back. This morning, while trying to grind some wheat for bread, I got 10 seconds of joy until the mixer made a horrible noise and stopped grinding....gears obviously gone bad.

Sigh. The good news is that there's a 90 day parts and labour warranty on the repair. And hand kneading isn't so bad.

10 January 2009

Real life for a change

Things have been very quiet at our house recently. Our beloved mother, grandmother and mother-in-law, Louise, is lying in a hospital bed, her body gradually shutting down. L and his sisters are at her side day and night watching each laboured breath.

Life has taken on a slow motion quality. The daily activities of our existence continue, but with no thoughts beyond the next few days. Every telephone ring is answered with apprehension. Our normally frugal budget is blown with meals, car rentals, hotels and cell phone calls and none of it matters.

Our only concerns are with Louise, and whether she is as comfortable as she can be, physically and mentally, as she leaves us. She is living these days with grace as she lived the rest of her life. L is discovering new reserves of strength as he sits besides her, anticipating her needs and keeping her company. And so it goes.

04 January 2009

Winter in the garden

These dark days of suspended animation in the garden are a real challenge for me. I feel like I'm holding my breath until spring. Soon the seed orders will be placed and seeds will start arriving in the mail. I'll try to resist the temptation to start too many seeds too early as seedlings get lanky and pale when they spend too much time indoors and spring is too unreliable here to chance planting out early. My little hoop houses didn't get built in the fall, but I'll try to have a couple ready for first thing in the spring to act as cold frames.

02 January 2009

A simple warm-up exercise for solving the world's problems.

I've received some feedback that my ranting is too depressing and I should be offering solutions instead of just problems. I actually thought I had been a little preachy on what we should all be doing. Witness this, this or this for starters. I think I just figured out why my solution posts don't register as solutions: quite clearly, my solutions seem like problems. The average person (myself included) isn't much interested in solving the world's problems through personal hardship. So I've done some thinking and figured out an easy (easy in that you don't have to leave your chair and you get to keep your wallet in your pocket) first step. Ready?
  1. Scale back your expectations.
  2. Shed your sense of entitlement.
  3. Repeat.
The consequence of not doing the above exercise is that for us rich kids, a radical reduction in consumption will seem like a problem and not the solution. I happen to think that we're rather close to the edge of the consumption cliff already, and I'd rather ease myself down while there's still a rope to hang on to. But even if I'm wrong about that, my own sense of justice would require me to examine my notions of what is fair and normal for me to consume. I'll admit to not having done the exercise enough to honestly do that.


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