Saturday, December 15, 2012

Little Dresses for Africa - Dresses BY Kids FOR Kids

I love it when the girls take off with a project. Such was the case with the Little Dresses/Little Britches for Africa project the girls ran with this month.

A little back story: when we signed up with our new 4H club, the first discussion with the club leader went something like this.

"Welcome to the club. We're glad to have you. So, what can you lead?"

"Ummm...(thinking of all the agricultural skills I absolutely do not have) about photography?"

"Great. Do you sew?"

Not a pause. Not a breath, and certainly no indication that I sew.

"A little bit."

"Can you lead our sewing project? We could really use a leader."

I'm thinking about my 12 year old who knows, at this point, more about sewing than I do.

"Sure. But only beginning sewing."

"GREAT! That's fine."

So here I am, planning the year with lessons like "How to Thread Your Machine," and "How to Turn Corners." I figured we'd move on to bags, and eventually a nine-square mini quilt, perhaps finally take on the statewide sewing service project, Little Dresses/Little Britches for Africa a project of the California 4H State Fashion Review.

I printed out the pattern on my random day of planning, showed it to E and she was off and running. I didn't propose that she even try it now. But she was ready to make something. Now.

Three dresses later, V jumped in to the mix.

The girls had it mastered.

Good thing, because who shows up at our first sewing project meeting? Another little girl with more sewing experience than anticipated.

"So, what kind of sewing have you done," I ask innocently.

"I've made a couple of dresses and skirts."

My first thought: "I'm doomed!"

I have her thread her machine, my machine, E's machine. E threads everyone's machines. Then, together, the girls run straight on with the dress project under E's direction.

Community service project? Check.

 Year-end project? Check.

Plans for the rest of this year? They're in the works.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pumpkins on the Farm

I had wanted to grow our own pumpkins, to have a bumper crop of tomatoes, an overwhelming supply of squash. Instead, this year, we learned a lot about gardening in the country, and we picked up our pumpkins from local farmers who have already learned a thing or a thousand about living with varmints and Nature beyond the 'burbs.

While we carved, I thought about the lessons learned this summer growing season. I thought about the 41 squirrels we caught and placed on our offering rock, far from the house, for the raptors and coyotes to enjoy. I remembered the 9 gophers I trapped and used to train the growing barn kittens about fresh dining opportunities available to them. I remembered the grasshoppers, the heat, the tomato horn worms, the clearly insufficient watering methods.

And I started planning for next year.

Next year, I shall plant an abundance of vegetables in hopes that Nature will take its share, but will leave a bit for our family. I plan to continue building upon the drip irrigation system I started this year, then water more frequently during our hottest months. I'll be diligent about the gophers that make a beeline for our garden, and I'm hoping to become a better shot where those squirrels are concerned.

And we shall have tomatoes and squash and carve pumpkins we grow for ourselves.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

4H - Jumping Right In

Leaving our old 4H club was really tough. Our daughter was on the board, the leaders were dynamic, the kids were active, and there were some tight-knit friendships blooming. Rather than mourn our loss, however, we opted to jump right in to the club in our new community.

First up, after signing up for projects, of course, was our first community service project with our new club - rejuvenating the club's community welcome sign. No one was jumping at the task, and while I'd intended to sit back this year and just learn how the operation ticked, it seemed they needed someone to jump in.


So, one fine, sunny day, the girls and I pulled up on the side of the road just outside town, climbed through the barbed-wire fence, and ripped off the old sign from its incredibly sturdy framework. We had plenty of looks, but not a soul stopped to ask what the heck we were doing defacing the community's welcome sign. I guess a woman and two girls climbing out of a minivan hardly look suspicious.

While the club was prepared to replace the wood and pay for paint, we discovered that the original plywood had been pretty well sealed by that old peeling paint. We finished scraping off the loose stuff, then were joined by one of the club's other newest members and his mom for a stencil-and-paint session.

The following day, the girls and I returned to the scene where I discovered a few things:
- nails which have had the tips ground off are VERY tough to reuse;
- said nails are particularly difficult to use when they don't align with holes;
- I hadn't checked the holes before orienting the art/text (it never occurred to me they might vary from one side to the other - whoops!)
- we hadn't taken into account the space the frame would take away from our sign.

The end result: we did get the sign hung, and no one will be able to tell dull nails worked their way into the wood, but rather than being spaced out in lovely fashion, the bottom edge of the frame serves as a bold underline to the meeting dates and times.

But it's legible, it's autographed, and it should serve just fine for another decade.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Growing Up Outdoors

There is just nothing like spending time outside. And where there's a tree, there needs to be a swing, or a low branch to use as a step. This daughter of ours understands that fact of life to her core.

Though we have the big rope swing across the little valley, these swings from our old play structure were begging to be hung again. This one found its way to a tree just outside our front door where it gets quite a bit of use. The other is still looking for a branch low enough for us to reach, but high enough to offer pendulous play.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Big Excitement in California - RAIN!

I've always gotten pretty excited by rain. Shoot, ANY change in weather thrills a kid raised on the Central Coast of California where the average temperature year-round is somewhere pretty darn close to 70 degrees. But after our first summer on the new place, after watching our grass turn to sticks, then fall to the dirt in a matter of weeks, after day upon day of temperatures well over 100 degrees, this first rain was particularly thrilling. Of course, starting with a thunderous boom helped.

Our first rain of the season woke me shortly after 6 a.m. with an incredible clap of thunder. Moments later, hail was tapping at my window and stomping on my roof. I grabbed the camera and headed outside, but it was pretty darn dark. I managed a couple of shots before running for cover.

Once the hail turned to rain, it took only about half an hour to fill our rain barrels. There's an open barrel on the back porch just because the "V" of the roof dumps loads there. There's a covered barrel along the other side. V lined up a previously uncommitted garbage can to the overflow spout of that barrel, then another which we filled after I showed her how a siphon worked.

Over the course of the day, we took measurements, took care of chores, watched the animals - largely unfazed, played with the siphon and rainwater, then started our first fire of the season in our stove, and hunkered down on the couch to read.

In the end, we received 1.5" of rain in about 24 hours. We call that a good start!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

PB&J Birthday Fakeout

Here's a little something fun to do for a dyed-in-the-wool PB&J lover.

Bake a cake in a bread tin.

Slice as you would other home-baked bread.

Make butter cream frosting, and add just a little TINY bit of cocoa (for color) or actual peanut butter.

Spread the "peanut butter" on two slices of "bread." Slather on some jelly if you'd like.

Serve on a plate with typical lunchtime sides. (I chose carrots.)

Serve, sit back, and watch the response.

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