Archive for 2012

A New Venture in the Burbs…

A few weeks ago life started tumbling around like the die in a Yahtzee cup.  The school year was coming to an end with all its inherent hustle and bustle: school finals, Black Belt camp, baseball play-offs, talent shows, birthdays, anniversaries, go, go, GO!  And then, I was told that I probably wouldn’t have a job next year.  I guess I should rewind a bit.  I work worked at a small Christian school where my son has attended for the last two years.  The tuition was affordable, the class sizes small and the teachers excited about teaching.  Over the last six months our school has chosen to step in and purchase a larger, failing Christian school.  The result being that next year all students will merge onto one campus.  Honestly, we were excited about the acquisition and were the very first to turn in our application.  Because our current school only went to 8th grade and the new school went through high school, we no longer had to worry about what to do for 9th – 12th grades… or did we?!?!?  Without going into all the details, the teacher’s aides (that would be me) were told that if enrollment did not increase for the new year that we would not have jobs.  We would, however, not find out definitively until sometime over the summer.  This started the Yahtzee cup shaking and spinning.  No job means no 50% discount on a tuition that was raised nearly THREE-FOLD over the course of the acquisition.  No 50% discount means that we can no longer afford to send the boy-child to that school.

With finances being a factor in schooling options for the coming year, we just didn’t feel it would be prudent to wait around to see if I would have a job or not.  Finding out in August that I would have no job, and thus no back-up plan would have been a recipe for disaster.  We tossed out that Yahtzee cup full of dice  a dozen times and one option kept popping up most prominently – homeschooling.

I am beyond excited.
The husband is skeptical, terrified and confused.
The boy-child is sad to be leaving his friends, upset that he will miss the 8th grade field trip to Williamsburg and excited at the prospect of finishing school by the time his peers are heading to lunch.

Once we made the decision to homeschool, things moved fast.  Within hours of sending the official unenrollment email, the “intent to homeschool” form was filled out and in the mail, he was enrolled in the homeschool co-op classes at our church and the curriculum was ordered.  My head is still spinning.

I have been asked several times if I am angry or bitter about what happened and my answer is a resounding, NO!  First, I have always wanted to homeschool.  ALWAYS.  And second, everything happens for a reason.  In fact, I was standing at the kitchen sink one night when God reminded me of a little something.  When the boy-child was going into first grade we were planning to send him to this particular school that our current school has purchased.  We took him in for a placement test over the summer and he failed SPECTACULARLY.  The school actually called us to say that they would allow him to enroll ONLY if he were held back and repeated kindergarten.  Now, let me just say that my child is smart and that is not just the mom in me talking.  In the 7 yrs. that he has been in school, his lowest report card grade was a B+.  He has made second honors (all A’s and B’s) EVERY. SINGLE. marking period of EVERY. SINGLE. year.  This is not to brag on how smart my kid is but to say that he was simply not supposed to go to this school.  Now, fast forward 7 yrs. later and we try to enroll him again under different circumstances only to be met with yet ANOTHER roadblock.  CLEARLY, the boy-child is NOT supposed to go to this school.  I can’t say that I know why but it is blatantly obvious.

And so, our little Homestead in the Burbs embarks on yet another adventure… HOMESCHOOLING!  Stay tuned for a post on how I plan to organize the year, what curriculum we’re using and other tidbits.


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Goals for the Week of 6/10 – 6/16


  1. Clean out kitchen pantry.
  2. Post homeschool books to lists
  3. Organize tutoring shelves
  4. Clean out lunchbox Lazy Susan
  5. Organize my car to be more efficient for summer
  6. Declutter one room or zone per day and pull out stuff for a garage sale
    • Mon. – master bedroom, closet & office closet
    • Tues. – living room, family room & dining room
    • Weds. – bathrooms
    • Thurs. – kitchen
    • Fri. – boy child’s bedroom & studio
    • Mon. – basement
    • Tues. – garage
      Basically, the entirety of my “to do” list for the next week(ish) involves cleaning, organizing and decluttering

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Goals for the week of 5/19 – 5/25

I’ve decided that I want to post a weekly goals list to include homesteading, personal and family goals.  I think it will help me to keep myself a bit more focused.  Not to mention, I LOVE LISTS!!!!!!

  1. Freeze strawberries
  2. Plant lima beans
  3. Prime bistro set
  4. Help the boy child write birthday thank-you notes

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Summer Organization

As summer vacation approaches I find myself furiously planning out the days ahead.  Ninety(ish) days of total freedom.  No work.  No school.  Okay, maybe that’s a little overstated.  I tutor and work a very part-time job over the summer and I do a relaxed homeschool schedule with the boy-child.  But after that, baby, it’s all fun and sun.

Some people plan big vacations in the summer.  Personally, I find vacations to be stressful.  The packing, the traveling, the stress of navigating a new location, the spending exorbitant amounts of money.  In my opinion, there is a very short period of time in which said vacation is enjoyable and more often than not, it’s just not worth the hassle.  Thankfully, my husband feels the same way and my son, while he loves dreaming of going away and doing things, is really a dyed in the wool homebody at heart.  As a family, we decided a few years ago to compromise and do a larger family vacation biennially.  In the off years, however, we opt for a quiet “stay-cation” at home.

While the idea of having nothing to do and endless hours to lounge and laze around does sound appealing, it would get old after awhile.  Really.  Really.  Old.  In all honesty, I would go out of my mind.  I need some structure.  So, what in the world do you do with three months worth of freedom when you want to keep your budget reasonable but still have a memorable summer?

Early on I will typically spend some time researching special events that will occur throughout the summer and write them on the calendar.  Then, as a family we will sit down together and make a list of local attractions that we would like to visit.  This year we’ve also compiled a “100 Things of Summer” list, which includes some personal goals for each of us, home projects, day trips and fun free things to do at home.  Finally, we purchase season passes for places that we will frequent many times.  Every year our season passes include a State Park pass, Philadelphia Zoo and Plumpton Park Zoo a small, locally owned zoo where we sometimes volunteer.  While it may seem redundant, we get our money’s worth and then some from both of these zoos.  I love the Philadelphia Zoo pass because of its fantastic Reciprocal Zoo and Aquarium program.  In recent years we have also added a fourth pass to the mix though it has changed each year.  A local museum was usually the choice, however, this year we have decided to go with a private pool that is less than 5 min. from our home.  To say that they boy-child is excited would be an understatement.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times that he has asked, “how many days until the pool opens?”

At the beginning of the summer I lay out a basic template for each week:

Monday – library
Tuesday – park/$1 movie day
Wednesday – zoo
Thursday – stay-at-home, board games, movies etc.
Friday – misc. outings

Sometimes the weather dictates that we swap days here and there but this gives me a general idea of what I want to accomplish in a given week.  My husband has off every other Friday throughout the year and in the Summer, he will typically take off those other Fridays using his vacation days.  This gives us one day as a family to head off to places I might not necessarily drive on my own.  Making Thursday our “stay-at-home” day is perfect then since we are able to get the house clean before my husband’s day off.  The other days are pretty self-explanatory.  We go to the library each week for new books, CD’s and movies.  We hit a state or town park each week and sometimes participate in the $1 Regal Summer Movie Express.  I am excited since this year the theater will be playing plenty of movies that we haven’t seen in the Summer Movie Express.  On zoo day we visit our small locally owned zoo and oftentimes volunteer.  On weeks that we don’t volunteer we make sure to take bags of produce and herbs for the animals.  Last summer the boy child and I were able to feed Jimmie the Giraffe some of said herbs.

Something else that we do in the summer is a modified summer homeschooling but that is fodder for another post.

Until next time!

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The 100 Things of Summer!

I love lists more than any sane person probably should.  After reading a To-Do List For Summer 2012 at The Provision Room I was inspired to create my own list of 100 things to accomplish personally, around the house and with the family this summer.  I can’t wait to get started!

  1.  Visit the Plumpton Park Zoo
  2.  Visit the Philadelphia Zoo
  3.  Visit Longwood Gardens
  4.  Visit Hagley Museum
  5.  Visit The Franklin Institute to see “The Dead Sea Scrolls”
  6.  Go ice skating
  7.  Sleep on the back porch
  8.  Make strawberry lemonade from the garden
  9.  Hiking at Lums Pond
  10.  Hiking at Iron Hill Park
  11.  Ghost Tour at Rockwood Mansion
  12.  Delaware Shakespeare Festival
  13.  Wilmington & Western Railroad
  14.  Cecil County Fair
  15.  Have a bonfire with roasted hotdogs and marshmallows
  16.  Make the boy child a root beer float
  17.  TCM Essentials, Jr. Family Movie Nights
  18.  Go-Karting
  19.  Batting cages
  20.  Miniature Golf
  21.  Walk 100 miles
  22.  Get certified as a NWF Wildlife Habitat
  23.  Make ice cream
  24.  Go berry picking
  25.  Watch a meteor shower (in July!)
  26.  Do at least 5 of the 77 Super Fun Date Night Ideas from Stay At Home Susie
  27.  Make Homemade Bodywash courtesy of Proverbs 2 Six
  28.  Brew my own Kombucha thanks to Delicious Obsessions
  29.  Make Homemade Natural Bug Repellant thanks to Frugally Sustainable
  30.  Make Homemade Sunscreen courtesy of Sustainable Life
  31.  Make an Important Documents Binder thanks to Your Own Home Store
  32.  Summer Reading program
  33.  Attend at least one extra activity at the pool this year (ie. Floating Movie Night, Wiggle Worm Night, Family Fun Night etc.)
  34.  Build a Fairy & Gnome House at the park on Sat. July 7
  35.  Pan for Gems at the park on Sat. July 23
  36.  Visit 5 State Parks
  37.  Have a sleepover for the boy child.
  38.  Camp out
  39.  Make sno-cones
  40.  Visit someplace we’ve never been.
  41.  Visit Booth’s Corner with DH
  42.  Make Strawberry Freezer Jam
  43.  Make a succulent terrarium
  44.  Stay in bed one stormy rainy day with the boy child watching movies and reading books
  45.  Picnic at the park
  46.  $1 Regal Movies
  47.  Watch fireworks
  48.  Go to a baseball game (the males)
  49.  Invent a new type of pizza
  50.  Make breakfast pizzas
  51.  Take flowers to mom’s, pop pop’s and Memi’s graves
  52.  Hooked on Fishing – Fair Hill July 11
  53.  Blackberry Festival – Milburn Orchard July 28
  54.  Read aloud 2 books to the boy child (titles to be determined)
  55.  Build a seed packet organizer
  56.  Make flashlight puppets
  57.  Stargazing and dessert at night
  58.  Let the boy child make dinner by himself
  59.  Take an exploratory drive to nowhere
  60.  Build a Mazon Bee House
  61.  Technology Free Day!
  62.  Take a walk in the rain… barefoot
  63.  Go bowling
  64.  Play race cars with the boy child in the driveway
  65.  Have a paper airplane race
  66.  Listen to 10 audiobooks
  67.  Swim… a lot
  68.  Lazer tag
  69.  Freezer cooking day at the beginning of summer
  70.  Make something for someone
  71.  Volunteer
  72.  Take an archery lesson with the boy child
  73.  Go to Washington DC
  74.  Go to Hershey Park
  75.  Start a gardening/herbal medicine binder
  76.  Read the Bible through in 99 days
  77.  Go out to breakfast
  78.  Write to my Compassion child
  79.  Spa day
  80.  Declutter every room in the house
  81.  Summer Home School
  82.  Watch the Olympics
  83.  Visit the museums in Old New Castle
  84.  Celebrate Christmas in July
  85.  Play balloon volleyball
  86.  Make banana bread
  87.  Set up Vermicomposting Bin
  88.  Have a picnic breakfast
  89.   Read 10 books from my shelves
  90.  Install a third rain barrel
  91.  Build and install rooftop garden boxes
  92.  Paint the bistro set and trellis
  93.  Install the bat box
  94.  Remove Weeping Cherry Tree
  95.  Plant Apple Tree
  96.  Have a garage sale
  97.  Finish the turtle pen
  98.  Organize photo albums
  99.  Whittle down the boy child’s clothes
  100. Pare down bookshelves

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First Real Harvest of the Season!

Things have been busy around Ye Olde Homestead lately.  Since my last post we have opened the rain barrels and had them filled, emptied and refilled by some pretty heavy rains.  We also went ahead with our plan to get a rabbit.


Chloe is a beautiful brown mixed-breed bunny with a perfect personality.  She has lots of energy but at the same time enjoys cuddling up beside me on the chair while I read a book.  Our original plan was to get a rabbit to put in a 4′ X 4′ “cubbyhole” in the Pollinator Garden.  It was a large enough space for a two-story hutch and a worm bin underneath to catch the rabbit pellets.  The area is very sheltered from the elements, is right up against the house and seemed perfect… until I saw her sweet little face and held her in my arms.  It was then that I knew I couldn’t relegate her to the backyard no matter how close in proximity she would be to the house.  My husband bought me a beautiful hutch that would fit on the enclosed porch and this is where she now lives.

She has the run of the back deck during the day and is only locked up in the hutch at night. She took to a litter box almost immediately and we haven’t had any problems while she’s out of the cage.  This makes it easy to scoop out the pellets and toss them in the garden every day or so.  The first week that she was home with me over spring break I had her free-roaming all-day everyday.  When I went back to work the following Monday I left her caged up because I was nervous about leaving her out on her own.  BIG. MISTAKE.  She had grown accustomed to her freedom in just that short amount of time and decided to chew the bottom door to her hutch in protest.  Now that she’s out during the day and has a plethora of toys to play with, I haven’t had any problems with her chewing.  In the evening when I get home from work she will often be waiting at the sliding-glass door for me so she can come inside and hang out.  I am thoroughly head-over-heels 100% in love with her… and even though he won’t admit it out loud, my husband thinks she’s pretty darn cool too.

This weekend was huge on the garden-front.  I put in the last of the vegetable plants and seeds, weeded like a crazy person and procured some new additions.  It was also our first major harvest of the season.  My husband and father-in-law built me four of these really great A-frame trellises.  Two have chicken wire for vines and two have slats to hang watermelon hammocks.  These were placed in a section of the garden that used to have the turtle pen.  This area was sectioned off into 7-3′ X 4′ rectangles where a different type of green, lettuce or root vegetable is grown in each rectangle.  Then, to save garden space one A-frame sits inside of every second one of these rectangles.  I know that’s probably hard to envision so I’ll be sure to post pictures of it later.  Essentially, it’s set up so that the greens grow under the A-frames where it will be shadier and cooler as the season progresses.  I’m hoping this will mean that we can extend the growing season for these cooler weather vegetables.

On the A-frames I have growing cucumbers, lima beans and two types of watermelon.  Under the A-frames and in the three open areas I have spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, mustard greens, collards, beets and radishes.  The radish crop came up yesterday and I re-sowed that space with carrots.

In the garden itself I planted a total of 6 heirloom slicing tomatoes, 5 cherry tomatoes, 6 basil, 4 celery, 8 peppers (bell, poblano, jalapeno), 1 zucchini, 1 squash, 2 arugula, 1 parcel (parsley/celery hybrid), 1 swiss chard and a few other things I can’t for the life of me remember.

Over the weekend I planted 2 new blueberry bushes since we lost two to some sort of damage.  It appeared to be child related rather than animal.  I also planted a tomatillo, however, it appears that I need a second one to cross-pollinate with the first so I’ll be headed back to the nursery next weekend.  We thought we had lost the two fig trees that I planted last year.  On Saturday we went to the nursery and, since the fruit trees were on sale decided to pick up a replacement fig and an apple to go in the places where the ruined figs were.  Well, when we got home we noticed that BOTH fig trees had some new growth at the bottom and had leaves sprouting.  This wasn’t there last weekend.  After all that lugging we made one final trip to the nursery to return the replacement fig and give the old ones another season to see what they’ll do.  The apple, however, I decided to keep.  We have a weeping cherry in our front yard that is diseased and needs to come down.  The plan is to put the apple tree in its place.

While we were at the nursery I found myself drooling over the Hibiscus trees.  They were a whopping $25.  I wasn’t about to pay that much so I kept walking.  What I was looking for was some pink honeysuckle like I had seen earlier in the day.  Well, I didn’t find that but what I DID find was a clearance rack with a small neglected Hibiscus for $3.  SCORE!!!!!  I took that puppy home, pruned off all of its ugly bits and put it in a fresh new pot.  It’s going to be GORGEOUS!

As for the pink honeysuckle, I went to a different nursery and picked up two of those to go on the trellis that we used to have beans on.  Once the A-frames went in there was no room for the old trellis anymore so we moved it to a spot over the heat pump.  I wanted to put something on it that would attract pollinators since that is in my herb garden and is adjacent to the pollinator garden.  When I saw the beautiful pink honeysuckle I just couldn’t pass it up.  It’s going to look beautiful when it’s all full and lush.

This Week’s Harvest

.1 lb. chive blossoms
.5 lb. romaine lettuce
.6 lb. spinach
2.5 lb. strawberries
5.1 lb. radishes

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This Week on the Homestead!

Two years ago, in a moment of weakness I planted everything a few weeks earlier than the last frost date and lived to regret it.  We got hit with a cold snap and lost a TON of seedlings.  This year, even though my husband was urging me to start early, I remembered those lessons learned and have only put out cold hardy plants.  I’m so glad I played it safe.  After several weeks of mild weather and quite a few days in the 70’s and even 80’s, we had a freak frost warning earlier this week.  So far, it doesn’t appear that we have been affected and honestly, I’m not even sure we actually got any frost.  It was still a little worrisome there for a day or two.  An ingenious neighbor put up Christmas lights on her fruit trees to keep them a bit warmer in case the temps went too low.  I’ll have to remember that!

It has been about ten days since I did any planting and I was starting to get a bit discouraged that so few sprouts were popping up.  Over the weekend, however, we got a bit of rain and everything has started sprouting beautifully.  It‘s amazing to see the results of hose water vs. rain water.  Everything has started sprouting in the lettuce/greens beds and if you look in the right-hand corner of the lettuce bed picture you’ll see my one lone purple onion sprout.  My mother-in-law is supposed to bring me some more purple onion sets this weekend.  I have no idea where I’ll put them but I’ll definitely find a place.

The irrigation hoses have been all laid out in a nice neat pattern just waiting to be tucked around some beautiful plants.  There isn’t much I can set out yet but this weekend I’ll at least be planting celery.  It’s probably a bit late for that but that’s okay.  We’ll see how it goes.

Over in the strawberry patch things are filling out quite nicely.  It is chock full of blooms and the vines are spreading like wildfire.  It’s hard to believe that the little bunch of bare roots I planted can turn into such a beautiful tangle of green and red.  I may pick up a few more plants from the nursery just to add some more variety to the three types I have in there right now.  


While the weeds in the turtle pen are coming along, I was hoping they would fill in a LOT faster.  I was told that it should be filled in within 10 days from planting.  So far I’m only noticing about three different types of weeds/grasses popping up.  I’ve also been tossing in some of my older seeds for edible flowers, greens and vegetables that may or may not germinate.  Hopefully it will really fill in soon and create a beautiful grazing area for our little Sully.  He is so ready to get out of his indoor pen and outside for the next three seasons.  Once the last board is placed on top of the pen I’ll have to add corner overhangs and finish the hide box.  The hide box is at the far end of the pen and is a very thick plywood that is hinged to the frame of the pen and then shingled to keep out the rain.  The interior walls will be solid blocks for insulation.  On the other end of the pen will be a small soaking pond.  In the previous pen it was made from a sunken mortar pan, however, I’m thinking about using concrete to make this one a more permanent structure.

This week I harvested my first herb of the season – chives.  They were delicious and I easily have double the amount I had last year.

Literally, all the trees that I planted last year have begun to leaf out.  This is very exciting.

Down in the basement everything has sprouted.  The first true leaves have even emerged on the zucchini.  So far, I don’t think I’ve had anything that hasn’t at least sprouted one seed.  I’m a little disappointed that the Microgreens haven’t done better.  I was expecting them to really fill in the pan and become lush enough to cut.  So far it looks more like a balding man’s comb over.

And finally for something new, the husband and I have decided to add a new critter to our homestead.  A rabbit!  S/he isn’t here yet since we’ve only just decided to move forward and will need time to have the hutch built and then pick one out.  The plan is to choose one from the inevitable castoffs that will surface after Easter.  Unless I can find the perfect hutch for nearly free on Craigslist, my father-in-law will build it for me.  I plan to incorporate a worm bin directly under the hutch as well.  I’m not usually wild about keeping my animals outdoors, however, we have a perfect spot that is mild in the winter and sheltered with nearly full shade in the summer.  It is also two steps out the back door.  I’m excited about the prospect of a bunny at my back door and the resulting droppings that will be pure gold for my garden.

Until next time!


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