Monday, October 5, 2015

Dad-schooling: Foraging

For the last month or so, our family has been embracing frugality. We have been trying to cut our food budget, while still feeding our kids local, organic foods. Fortunately, we made this decision in Fall, right at the beginning of our CSA farm share, so we have been busy picking and freezing green beans, peppers, and ground cherries. Brent has also been canning beets, salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, and so much apple sauce. The most surprising thing we've discovered in this journey is that there is a wealth of free food out there in the world, once you start looking. A local museum that is built on an old orchard, invited its guests to come pick apples, so we did. They have a few spots, but they are beautiful, tasty apples, that were just falling on the ground otherwise. They are turning into applesauce, dehydrated apples, apple crisps, and apple muffins. Brent has turned the kids into expert foragers, always with an eye to abandoned fruit.

On labor day, our friend called us early in the morning with a special offer. Members of her family had just  purchased an old house and on the property was a well-established grape vine, which was loaded with ripe grapes. Did we want to come and pick them and do something with them? Yes we did. We threw on some clothes, loaded in our car, and set out.What did we find?
 An arbor loaded with Concord grapes
We set to picking. Soon we had three giant pails full.
When we got home, Brent scoured the Internet for ways to can grapes. He started out with grape jam, which required squeezing the grapes out of the skin. Kinda fun, kinda gross all in one. Then pureeing the skins and cooking it all down with lots of sugar until it made jam. After two batches of jam, one with pectin and one without, we still had pails of grapes. So then we made Grape Shrub, an old-fashioned 19th drink Brent learned to make at his Preserving the Harvest class at Old Sturbridge Village. It involves cooking fruit, sugar and vinegar together to make a concentrate, which you can then later add to water to make a drink. After the shrub, we still had grapes, so we made canned Concord Grape juice.
It wasn't exactly how we planned to spend our day off. But we were all so proud that when it comes to free food, we are ready to spring into action. Our PB & J's are secure for the winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Five in a Row: Warm as Wool

I bought this beautiful book, Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders, last year as part of our Five in a Row curriculum, but for whatever reason, we never got around to "rowing" it. Well, as it turns out, the timing was perfect. The story is about a pioneering family in 1804 who travel to Ohio to try and start a farm. The mother brings with her a spinning wheel, loom, and a stocking full of money to buy sheep, and eventually, through many trials, is able to start her own herd of sheep and clothe her family in warm, wool clothing.

Old Sturbridge Village was hosting a Homeschool Day in mid-September. They offered a series of inexpensive, hour-long classes, and one was in Carding, Spinning, and Weaving. The teacher gave a talk and slide show about how clothing was made from wool in the 1800s and my older girls got to try their hand at carding and weaving on the looms in their educational center. She really did all my work for me this week. I love Serendipity Homeschooling.
Carding wool with carding paddles while learning a fun alphabet game.
Watching the big loom in action

Trying out the seated looms with foot pedals. These were the girls' favorites
Trying a smaller table loom.

 We even met a friendly sheep there who let us pet her.
 We extended learning with lessons on western expansion. We read a book about Sacagawea and Lewis and Clark, and did a math activity to see how many goods we could pack into our covered wagon. We learned facts about sheep and read the 23rd Psalm at our tea time.

When we got back from OSV, the girls were eager to do more with wool. Since I have been trying to learn to needle-felt for a few years, I introduced the girls to the craft. We used a Sheep Finger Puppet craft from Martha Stewart Crafts for Kids book as an inspiration. We wet-felted the white part around our finger. Then we needle-felted the faces. Needle Felting needles are extremely sharp and barbed, but I found a safe way to let the kids try it, by using a cookie cutter. We used an acorn shaped mini-cookie-cutter for the head, filled it with black roving and carefully poked it with the needles. I helped them shape the wool for the eyes. Then we needle-felted the face to the white wool. We also had to make some needle-felted hedgehogs by the kids' request.  For these we used a large egg-shaped cookie cutter like below, and kept the wool we were shaping inside the cookie cutter and our other fingers on the outside to protect from pokes. Overall, it was a success, and we hope to try some more cookie-cutter felting for Christmas ornaments in the future.