Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nathan's Home

  • Nathan came home today. He's thinner, and I think a little taller. Matt said it was just his boots, but I think we all know its because he is within an inch of being taller than his dad and I think it bothers  Matt just a little. It's nice to have him home, we have all missed him quite a bit. Benjamin took some time to warm up, and wasn't too sure, but eventually gave him big hugs and smiles. Evelyn, Jacob and Noah were really excited to have their brother back...even though some of them claimed not to miss him. Evelyn became somewhat of a clingy monkey for a while. Jacob claimed that Nathan(the real one) hadn't been returned yet, because this one that came home was so much nicer than the one that used to live with us. Noah been quiet tonight, and just seems relieved and happy to have his pal back. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Milestone: The Oldest is Going Backpacking

Nathan left today to go on a backpacking adventure through the Boy Scouts Venturing Crew. That sounds simple enough on its own, but he will be gone for two weeks and is going to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico to trek through a part of the Rocky Mountains. This scouting facility has a fascinating history and looks like a wonderful opportunity and adventure ahead for him.

Hiking Practice
We wish him well and pray that he comes home safe. He has only been gone for a couple of hours and already the kids are missing him, even Benjamin who didn't get to say good-bye this morning has been searching around the house and calling for him.

I am really excited that he is getting this opportunity. He worked really hard this summer doing several jobs for a few different people in order to raise the funds that he needed in order to go...and he actually went beyond and has some spending money to go with it. A grant to help pay for a portion of the trip was also awarded to him through the Boy Scouts. I am very proud of the young man that he is becoming, and looking forward to hearing about the adventures he is about to undertake and all the growing that will come from this trip. I think that this is a great beginning into his up coming Freshmen year in High School.

Cleaning House: Two Weeks in...

Our 14 Year Old's Room  

As usual I didn't have the foresight to take before pictures to show what we were dealing with with the kids just refusing to do the minimum of keeping there rooms at a reasonable state of clean. Many days the accumulated mess was making it hard to see the floor, and it was spilling out of the doorways into the halway, and trailing and gradually trickling into other areas of the house, even the kitchen and the yard has scattered remains of where the children had recently been playing and decided to go on to another task just leaving whatever was taken out to come back to at a later, undisclosed date...which usually meant never, or at least not within the next few days. 
Our Two Younger
 Boys Rooms
So during the month of July they are required to keep their rooms clean, and this is the result that we have been seeing in the last two weeks. Each room has a jar with a dollar for each day. So far our oldest has lost two dollars and this is what his room has been looking like as we walk down the hall during the day. Our younger two have struggled a little with the concept and it has been a little more difficult to convince them that this is an important task. They have lost four dollars so far, but typically, this is the usual state of their room for the past few days. They have each needed some encouragement to comply, and it is not perfect, but being able to see the color of the carpet and not step on a sharp Lego well placed so that the pointed end is up just waiting to dig into the soft spot in the arch of my foot. So far so good...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Landscaping: Reclaiming our property with Hugelkultur

We live on a hill, a very lovely wooded hill. We have a nice home and property, we just bought it at a time when it has been worn down by age and some neglect, but it has lots of potential. The upkeep, repairs, and trying to get the house and yard at a point where we would like it is exhausting, and many of  the projects we need to accomplish quickly also come with a pretty serious price tag. So in the process of keeping up with the needs of the property we have been researching some more economical ways of fixing some of the issues that we are being faced with.

At some point I came across an article on key hole gardening which was really fascinating. It is a way of piling debris and yard litter into a big pile and lining it with rocks, or sticks, or other materials in order to build up a large raised bed that is typically shaped in a circle with a pie shaped portion cut out making it look like a key hole. The material composts over time feeding the plants that are being grown on top, but also being able to hold in and maintain months worth of water even in typically dry climates, this is becoming a popular planting process in areas of Africa. Very cool idea, but not exactly what we were interested in least at this time. What we really need is a way to stop the erosion issues that we have, and reclaim some of the areas that have washed out over time.

The quick way of fixing this is call up a company that has fill dirt and begin refilling the areas and restructuring the property the way we want. So that takes lots of hard earned money...with five kids to raise that doesn't tend to stay in the bank. So enter the Hugelkultur! It is ingenious, and I really like to say the word, it's just fun to try and use in general conversation. It's a German word(obviously) that means mound culture or hill culture. This has been practiced in Europe for hundreds of years.

It's like a compost pile on steroids. You begin by putting large logs down. On top of those you begin layering other yard debris such as sticks, leaves, grass clippings, hay, etc. on top of that, a layer of soil, or compost is placed. it creates a mound on which you begin to plant. Over time the whole mound begins to decay and this helps to feed the plants that you have placed within the soil layer. The composting material also creates and retains moisture, so the pile can essentially keep plants watered for several months without needing to be watered. This is why it is such a wonderful idea for dry areas that typically make growing food difficult. When I saw this it seemed like a perfect solution to our erosion issue, and we could start building the property back up one mound at a time until we got it back to where we want it. My hope is to terrace the property in large areas of flat space down the hill so that it doesn't wash away again.

Today we began to fill in a problem area near our drive way. The top of the hill near the house is about 15 feet(or more) higher than the lowest part of the yard near the road. This area seems to be creeping closer to our paved driveway and it needs to be fixed before it gets there. We have lots of dead and dying trees on the property that we are slowly taking care of, or nature is taking care of for us. Today we finally took the pine tree that has been sitting near our driveway for a year, cut it into manageable pieces, and began layering it into the area we want filled in. As we get more yard debris, trees, or others that may want to get rid of their yard debris, we will continue to pile it into the area until it fills in completely. Eventually as it decays I would like to purchase some dirt to layer on top and begin planting.

We will continue this in the back yard also and work toward terracing. It is going to be a long and arduous task, but I think that it will be worth it in the end.

Part of our front yard hill

After hauling most of the dead Pine

Where we stopped for the day

This is where we started
Looking up the hill